ANNAPOLIS — Maryland education officials and lawmakers — members of the state’s first commission to review standardized testing — appeared ambivalent Nov. 17 over how they will determine the value of statewide assessments.
Some commission members wanted to look at the technology infrastructure for testing, while others want to further study the ancillary effects of testing on students — such as school computers being used for testing instead of instruction.
Though the deadline for making recommendations is far into the future — July 1 of next year — the first-ever commission to analyze Maryland’s tests began with reviewing a 120-page report on administering assessments throughout the state that was prepared earlier this summer by the Maryland State Department of Education.
The 19-member commission met for the first time early Tuesday, though preparation for the task force began shortly after Gov. Larry Hogan signed the commission into law in May. State education officials scoured each of the state’s 24 school districts between June and July to survey local education boards and principals about their students’ time spent on testing.
The report dedicated nearly 20 pages to naming every assessment that students take in the state, and also composed a breakdown of each school district’s time spent on these individual tests.
The commission plans to meet next on Dec. 17, when Henry Johnson, interim state deputy state superintendent, is expected to present and review the report, which will further break down each school district’s results by grade level, Johnson said.
“There is great variability between the school systems and amount of assessments in each,” Johnson said. “Some are in a state of transition right now and there have been some major changes in our districts in terms of assessments since we visited them.”
The panel agreed to keep the data disaggregated so that it is not comparing what several commission members called “apples to oranges” when looking at different counties, due to various testing methods.
Delegate Eric Ebersole, D-Baltimore and Howard, a former math teacher of 35 years, said he hopes the commission’s recommendations will be adopted by the state board and local education boards. If not, Ebersole said, legislation for the 2017 legislative session could be in the works.
“A few people criticized me and said, ‘Why didn’t you pass a law to get rid of testing?’ and the answer was testing is very entrenched, but not entirely unnecessary,” said Ebersole, who helped create the law commissioning the task force. “From the Maryland Functional Test in the 90s, to the MSAs and HSAs in the 2000s, to the PARCC assessments, they have been taking more and more time out of instruction.”