December 17, 2017

Priority Issue: Student Assessments

 

Graduation Requirements: MSDE FAQs in a Time of Transition

MSDE has prepared a document providing information, including the assessment requirements for specific graduating classes, to assist local school system staff members to implement the graduation requirements currently in effect. The document covers students graduating in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. State regulations are located under COMAR 13A.03.02.00 – 12. 

General Assembly Enacts Major Legislation Governing Student Assessment Programs

More Learning, Less Testing Act (HB 461/SB 452) (Sen. Manno/Del. Luedtke)

Legislation enacted in 2017 requires local boards of education and exclusive employee representatives to meet and confer regarding school assessments as specified in the bill and, by December 1, 2017, and every two years thereafter in odd numbered years, mutually agree to a limited amount of time that may be devoted to federal, State, and locally mandated assessments for each grade. If the parties fail to mutually agree, the time that may be devoted to specified assessments must be limited to 2.2% of the minimum required annual instructional hours for every grade except for eighth grade, which must be limited to 2.3%.

In even numbered years, school systems must convene District Committees on Assessments comprised of teachers selected by the exclusive bargaining unit and parents, to advise and make recommendations on the time required to administer each assessment, purpose, timeliness of results, etc. In addition the bill the bill requires the State Board in collaboration with local boards to develop a middle school Social Studies assessment which consists, to the greatest extent possible, of criterion-referenced, performance-based tasks. The bill takes effect June 1, 2017.

MABE opposed this bill as introduced, and continues to have concerns about the bill’s approach to requiring a quasi-negotiation process between the teachers’ unions and local school systems regarding student assessments. (MABE Testimony)

Other Student Assessment Bills Enacted in 2017

Prekindergarten Student Assessment (HB 548/SB 667) (Ch. 333/334) (Sen. Jennings/Del. Shoemaker)

As introduced, this bill would have placed a moratorium on the administration of the Early Learning Assessment (ELA) for enrolled prekindergarten students. However, as enacted, the bill authorizes local school systems to administer the ELA under the following condition. “Before administering the early learning assessment, a county board shall consult with prekindergarten teachers, including teachers nominated by the exclusive bargaining representative, in determining how to implement the assessment.” The bill takes effect July 1, 2017.

MABE opposed this bill as introduced, but supports the amendments to allow each local board to continue to administer the early learning assessment. However, MABE remains concerned about the approach adopted which will involve union representatives in determining student assessment practices. (MABE Testimony)

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (HB 654/SB 145) (Ch. 326) (Del. Kaiser/Sen. Pinsky)

This bill extends from October 1 to October 10 the date by which the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) must be completed when a local board of education or a principal and teacher who are in mutual agreement decide to assess all students entering kindergarten in a school year. The bill takes effect July 1, 2017.

MABE supported this bill, recognizing that the October 1 deadline for completing the administration of the KRAs was no longer feasible following the Governor’s Executive Order mandating a post-Labor Day start for all of Maryland’s public schools beginning in 2017. (MABE Testimony)

Commission to Review Maryland's use of Assessments and Testing in Public Schools – Final Report

Final Report (PDF)

In accordance with House Bill 452 of the 2015 General Assembly Session, this Commission was required to report its findings and recommendations to the State Board of Education, each county board of education, and the General Assembly on or before July 1, 2016.  Additionally, in accordance with the legislation, on or before September 1, 2016, each county board of education shall review and consider the Commission’s findings and recommendations; make comments and recommendations related to whether they accept or reject the Commission’s findings and recommendations to the State Board; and make the comments and recommendations available to the public on request. The Maryland State Department of Education has advised that questions about the process should be directed to: Miya Simpson, Executive Director Office of the State Board of Education (miya.simpson1@maryland.gov & 410-767-0466) or Amanda Conn, Director of Education Policy and Government Relations (amanda.conn@maryland.gov & 410-767-0469).

Additional information regarding the Commission’s work can be found at: http://msde.maryland.gov/commissiononassessments/index.html.


2015 legislation created the Commission to Review the Use of Assessments and Testing in Maryland Public Schools, which met for the first time on November 17, 2015 (House Bill 452, Ch. 421, 2015). The work of MSDE and the Commission was set forth in two stages. 

First, MSDE was required to survey local school systems by August 31, 2015, primarily to “assess how much time is spent in each grade and in each local school system on administering local, State, and federally mandated assessments” and to “review the purpose of all local, State, and federally mandated assessments administered by local school systems, whether summative or formative, and determine whether some assessments are duplicative or otherwise unnecessary.” The more than 300-page “Report on Local, State, and Federally-Mandated Assessments in Maryland,” includes responses from each of the 24 local school systems; and describes the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards in 2010, the subsequent development of Maryland-specific College and Career Readiness Standards, and implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments. 

The report compiles responses from local school systems on the array of locally-mandated assessments, and states, “This variation reflects the strong tradition of local autonomy and decision-making that exists in Maryland. Local school boards are elected or appointed to make decisions that best reflect the values and desires of local communities.”   

MABE's letter to State Board commenting on the survey voices strong support for local board and school system governance and discretion concerning student assessment policies and practices. MABE notes that school systems’ responses emphasize the role of formative and summative assessments in educating students; measuring what students know and informing the appropriate instruction to benefit individual students.  Common themes include: the use of data systems and interactive platforms to analyze student assessment data and immediately inform teachers in the classroom; the recent and ongoing transition to on-line assessments; and the ongoing responsibility to provide professional development for teachers and principals.  

Following the survey, local boards and other stakeholders were provide the opportunity to review and comment on the survey results. MABE did so in a November letter to State Board President Guffrie Smith. MABE emphasized that the report reflects the fact that the General Assembly has expressly delegated to local boards, in conjunction with the State Board, the responsibility for developing curriculum and student assessments. MABE’s letter urges the State Board and legislature to continue to adhere to the principle of locally-governed education policies and practices regarding student assessments.   

Second, the Commission is to meet and make recommendations regarding “how local school systems and the State can improve the process in which local, State, and federally mandated assessments are administered and used to inform instruction” and “the most efficient and effective methods to ensure that adequate time is allotted to both administering assessments and instruction.” MABE firmly believes that the coordination of these efforts by educational professionals within local school systems is essential to the continuous improvement of public education in Maryland, toward the goal of each student achieving his or her highest potential as a learner. MABE looks forward to advocating this position as the Commission proceeds to analyze the schedules, purposes, and instructional value of local, state, and federally-mandated assessments.


For more information, contact John R. Woolums, Esq., MABE's Director of Governmental Relations, at jwoolums@mabe.org or 410-841-5414.