May 14, 2015

Commission will study over-testing of Md. school children

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Ebersole Hogan Miller Busch

Photo above: The bill creating the commission to study school testing was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Larry Hogan. Sponsor Del. Eric Ebersole stands between Hogan and House Speaker Michael Busch, joined by staff and members of the Maryland State Education Association.

By Rebecca Lessner

For MarylandReporter.com

Maryland lawmakers decided the first step to solving over-testing in Maryland public schools is to understand the full problem, so they passed a bill creating a 19-member commission that will attempt to alleviate the pressure of excessive student testing.

The Commission to Review Maryland’s Use of Assessments and Testing in Public Schools became law Tuesday, as Gov. Hogan signed HB 452 into law.

Many states have begun assessing the effectiveness of their own testing standards. The nationwide scrutiny comes in response to testing increasingly taking center stage in the classroom — at the expense of meaningful learning time, according to testing critics.

“It’s a big issue that parents, legislators and educators all agree on,” said Sean Johnson, assistant executive at the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA).

After spending 35 years teaching mathematics in Howard County, sponsor Del. Eric Ebersole, D-Baltimore and Howard, knows firsthand how excessive testing holds up the progression of other classes, as teachers are pulled out of their classrooms to administer the federal and state mandated tests that can last more than two hours.

“A school can be ground to a halt,” said Ebersole. “There is a lot of infrastructure that goes into testing and it uses a lot of manpower.”

Commission versus eliminating tests?

Ebersole was often asked “why not just eliminate tests, is the commission necessary?”

“Testing is pretty well entrenched in our education philosophy,” said Ebersole. “We need a commission with credible results in order to cause policy changes.”

Testing is used to evaluate teacher and student performance, but it is also tied in with school ratings, funding that comes with a high- or low- performing schools and graduation requirements.

“The high stakes nature of it all, whether it’s funding, graduation or employment status, is a concern for everybody,” said Johnson.

According to Johnson, there is no uniform amount of testing done across Maryland jurisdictions. Similar subjects may be lumped into one test or separated depending on school preference. He hopes the commission will establish uniformity across all jurisdictions.

Clarification 5/14/15:  Since MSEA does not have the goal of making all local jurisdictions give exactly the same tests, it would be more accurate to say Johnson seeks uniformity in how schools count the amount of testing taking place in their schools.

An analysis conducted by the Baltimore Sun in November found that in Baltimore County students can spend up to 46 hours testing, while in Carroll County students spend 14 hours.

Not yet appointed

The commission will consist of two delegates and two senators to represent the General Assembly and 15 other stakeholders, as appointed by the governor.

MSEA is eager to get as many qualified and diverse voices as possible before the governor for a decision, including educators, parents, education experts and administrators.

Also ready to volunteer is the bill sponsor.

“I’m not going in with an agenda on exactly what this commision should do,” said Ebersole, adding he would listen to the experts and review results.

The commission will present its findings and suggest the next step to the General Assembly by July 2016.

Problems at national level

Parents chose to remove 173,000 of their children from state testing in New York last month, in response to issues with Common Core standards and teachers being more heavily evaluated on student performance.

“Opting out” is gaining ground as an alternative to testing in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Michigan and New York, but Maryland State Department of Education requests parents not opt their children out of a state test.

Classrooms are also attempting to adjust to Common Core testing standards. Maryland followed the 45 states and the District of Columbia in the use of the new standards last year through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests.

Building frustrations have put pressure on Congress to reassess the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Under No Child Left Behind, “100% of students need to score proficient on state assessments beginning in spring 2014, a standard that is impossible for almost every school in every state to meet,” said the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.

No Child Left Behind requires states to annually assess students in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in grades 10-12. It also requires states to test students in science once in grades 3-5, 6-8, and 10-12.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted unanimously in favor of the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, which would allow states to decide the “weight” of federal test outcomes, rather than federal government. It now goes before the full Senate for a floor vote.

RebeccaAnnLessner@gmail.com

  • Dale McNamee

    When I was growing up, I had final tests in the subjects that I took to progress to the next grade. If I passed, I progressed, if not, I was kept back… And that regimen worked from K-12th. grade and accepted by colleges and potential employers…

    But, with the advent of “social promotion” and “grade inflation”…

    Maybe a return to final exams at each grade, letter grading ( no “pass/fail” ), no ” social oromotion”, should take care of “over testing”,
    along with actual teaching…

  • Happy

    Dumbass Democraps screwing everything up as usual.

  • Kathy Rus

    Happy, you do realize that our current governor is a Republican, right? And that the mania for testing started with No Child Left Behind, a program enacted under a Republican president? Or is “Blame the Dumb Democrats!” just your default scream for everything from school testing to tornadoes? BTW, the governor is trying to make some much needed changes–I think since he was elected by the people of this State, we should let him see what he can do.

  • Rebecca

    I am a parent in Carroll County Md and our kids are not testing for only14 hours. My 8th grader has the following assessment test; SRI and SMA 5 times this year, G-M twice this year, MSA for days, Redi Step assessment and PARCC for ELA and Math. PARCC testing alone is close to 20 hours of scheduled testing time.We requested an OPT out from PARCC for our two boys and we were denied. We were told by our Superintendent and BOE that they will not force our boys to test but they will not allow our boys to do anything productive during test time. They would have to sit there or we will have to pick them up. That is exactly what we have done. Between our two boys we have picked them up from school 20 times for all of the scheduled PARCC testing. Yes, my husband has a full-time job and I have my own business.
    Our public schools have lost site of educating our children to political correctness and these testing companies are making a huge amount of money. Our testing cost have gone from approximately $5 per student to almost $25 per student.

  • Waldez

    The Ohio Legislature just passed a bill eliminating State mandated testing with a sole dissenting vote, I think those Politicians read the anger loud and clear. Delaware’s response to Over Testing was a bill resulting in a decisive 30 to 3 ” it must stop” legislative outcome, though the ultra liberal Governor Markel vows repeatedly to veto it. The opposition to Common Core and Over Testing was first portrayed in the Press as a Tea Party, Home Schooled Survivalist conspiracy fantasy, now the Liberal Media are using both hands to try to get their feet out of their mouths. Opposition to Over Testing is now nationwide with both Liberals and Conservatives running away at Olympic speed. Oh how fast angry parents can influence politicians and that’s the way it should be.