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Md. Schools’ Standardized Tests Under Fire

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ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — The Maryland School Assessments, a set of standardized tests for elementary and middle school students, are under fire by some parents, teachers, lawmakers and school officials who say the tests are outdated and meaningless in the age of Common Core academic standards.

Two state lawmakers from Montgomery County say they’re drafting bills asking the state to seek a waiver this school year from a federal requirement to give standardized tests.

“I’m just not convinced that giving a test for the sake of giving a test is the right thing,” state Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery, told The Washington Post.

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery opposes the move.

“Absolutely not,” Lowery said.

The MSAs have been given for a decade to students in grades 3 through 8 for math and reading, and grades 5 and 8 for science. They are intended to show how well schools do in educating their students.

Critics say the tests lack purpose and waste instructional time because they don’t reflect the Common Core standards now being taught in Maryland. The Common Core, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, is a set of academic benchmarks that outline skills a student should have at each grade level. The standards were created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to improve academic achievement and increase accountability. President Barack Obama and his administration have embraced them.

Next school year, statewide testing is expected to comport with Common Core standards, with students being given Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. State officials say PARCC tests are being field-tested this year by a small fraction of Maryland students — one class at every school.

Lowery said she recognizes the misalignment, particularly in math, but believes the MSAs provide information important to educators. The results are helpful for teacher professional development, she said.

“We’re being very thoughtful, very deliberate,” Lowery said.

Sen. King said she’s drafting a bill for the upcoming General Assembly urging the state to push for a federal waiver of this year’s MSAs.

Delegate Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, who is also a Montgomery social studies teacher, said he’ll introduce a companion bill.

“Why would we give a test on something kids are not being taught? It defies logic,” he said.

The Post reported that the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations is also urging state officials to seek a federal waiver, and that another Montgomery County teacher has launched a petition to that effect.

The Carroll County Times reported Monday that the Carroll County school board has asked the county’s legislative delegation to seek elimination of the MSAs.

Carroll County Superintendent Steve Guthrie said the MSA tests no longer match the county’s curriculum.

“It’s of no value,” Guthrie said.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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