Teachers, school boards seek to drop standardized tests this year

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

Maryland School Assessment testDozens of parents told legislators Wednesday that the entire Common Core curriculum ought to be scrapped.

But even those who support the new education standards, such as school boards and the state teachers union, said the standardized tests scheduled this spring should be dropped since they’re not based on the new curriculum.

The Maryland State Department of Education continues to resist dropping the Maryland School Assessment. MSDE officials say dropping the test will save little money and potentially jeopardize $289 million in federal funds.

“They’re going to be tested on standards that are not aligned with what they’re being taught,” Christopher Barclay of the Montgomery County Board of Education told the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday.

Barclay was testifying on HB117 proposed by Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat and a teacher. The bill orders the state education department to seek a waiver from federal officials on the requirement for standardized tests under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

“It is educational malpractice,” said Tiferet Ani, a Montgomery County teacher. “This test has been meaningless” for some time, since it does not measure the progress of individual students, but schools as a whole.

School administrators “will not be looking at the results of these tests,” she said.

Ani had circulated a petition to drop the tests, and said it was a “dereliction” by the state education officials for not seeking a waiver from the federal mandate.

“They have not looked for a way to get out of this,” Ani said.

Jack Smith, chief academic officer for the State Department of Education, said dropping the test would save little money, since most of it had already been spent preparing the tests. And the move could potentially cause the state to lose $289 million in federal funds.

No process for waiving the testing requirement has been set up by the U.S. Department of Education, Smith said. “USDE has denied requests from other states, including California and Texas.”

But Smith also insists that the tests are not meaningless, and “align with the new standards in many areas. Teachers can continue using data to strengthen literacy and teach mathematics.”

Sean Johnson of the Maryland State Education Association, which represents more than 70,000 educators, said, “MSEA supports the high standards of common core” but “teachers and students are frustrated” with the implementation process.

Teachers want to slow down and improve the implementation process, and dropping the MSA test is part of that effort.

The MSA will be replaced with a new computerized test next year called PARCC — Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessments.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

len@marylandreporter.com

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

2 Comments

  1. Deb

    Forcing Maryland schools to administer the MSA this year would be a show of force by a Secretary of Education with no “ed cred” whatsoever – no education degrees, zero teaching experience! – on a state that has far better things to do with two weeks in March and several MILLION dollars than administer a test whose results won’t count for anything (except in the case of many Maryland counties, a portion of teacher evaluations, even though the test doesn’t test what the current curriculum teaches!). In short, it’s bullying, and it’s akin to educational malpractice. And Ed Harri is absolutely right: teachers and schools get the data too late to remediate instruction for their classes or for individual students anyway; the test has always been next-to-useless for this purpose, and this year its administration is nothing short of wasteful: Waste of time, waste of money, waste of resources, waste of hours and hours of kids from grades 3-8.

    Ditch the test! It’s not too late to sign the petition! http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/cancel-the-msa.fb40?source=s.fb&r_by=6832994

  2. Ed Harris

    Jack Smith is so very wrong.
    Schools and teachers don’t get the MSA data until after school has closed in June and the data has no relevance to the Common Core curriculum.
    I have to wonder if Mr. Smith is ignorant or duplicitous.

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