Teachers, school boards seek to drop standardized tests this year

By Len Lazarick


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.