State com­mis­sion re­leases test­ing rec­om­men­da­tions

School board to con­sider pro­pos­als next month

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON- COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

Charles County has met or is close to meet­ing sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions by a state com­mit­tee to re­duce the im­pact of manda­tory test­ing on in­struc­tional time, but more work needs to be done, ac­cord­ing to school of­fi­cials.

“Charles County is re­ally lead­ing the way in this,” said Amy Holl­stein, deputy superintendent for Charles County Pub­lic Schools. “We feel ver y con­fi­dent that our as­sess­ment pro­gram is well aligned to the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions.”

for no more than 2 per­cent of class time.

“Last year, when th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions came out of [Wash­ing­ton,] D.C., they rec­om­mended that each county ex­am­ine all their as­sess­ments and look to make sure they’re be­low the 2 per­cent, we did that, and we shared that with the com­mu­nity and with all of our school per­son­nel, and we are be­low 2 per­cent for all grade lev­els,” Holl­stein said.

McLaugh­lin com­mended the school sys­tem’s of­fice of in­struc­tion for work­ing to get test­ing un­der the 2 per­cent limit, but said ad­di­tional work needs to be done in terms of re­duc­ing overtest­ing.

Among the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions to the state are to not move for­ward with plans to cre­ate an ad­di­tional so­cial stud­ies as­sess­ment in mid­dle school and to al­ter the civics as­sess­ment in a way that does not overly im­pact in­struc­tional time, rec­om­mend­ing the test be given within reg­u­lar class pe­ri­ods, rather than al­ter­ing the in­struc­tional day, which McLaugh­lin said is im­por­tant for let­ting teach­ers teach.

“As a teacher, there were times when I would have less than half of my class in the room, be­cause the others were out be­ing tested. How do you teach new con­tent when half of the class is be­ing tested?” McLaugh­lin said.

The com­mis­sion also rec­om­mends lim­it­ing the usage of as­sess­ments in teacher eval­u­a­tions.

“As far as SLO [Stu­dent Learn­ing Ob­jec­tive] re­form, we’re al­ready do­ing that in Charles County,” McLaugh­lin said.

SLOs are ob­jec­tive mea­sures of stu­dent growth used in the eval­u­a­tion of teach­ers. The com­mis­sion rec­om­mends that as­sess­ments not be given pri­mar­ily for the pur­pose of meet­ing SLOs, and that school districts re­quire no more than two teacher-di­rected SLOs for the pur­pose of meet­ing stu­dent growth re­quire­ments.

“We don’t want our teach­ers to be sub­jected to giv­ing a test just to meet an SLO, be­cause that would ac­tu­ally de­tract from teach­ing,” McLaugh­lin said.

In ad­di­tion, the com­mis­sion rec­om­mended that each school sys­tem es­tab­lish a Dis­trict Com­mit­tee on As­sess­ments, or DCA, com­prised of ad­min­is­tra­tors, teach­ers and par­ents to mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate the school sys­tem’s as­sess­ment pro­grams.

“As long as the com­mit­tee is truly rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and as long as teach­ers’ voices are be­ing heard, that is good,” McLaugh­lin said. “Be­cause it’s teach­ers who see first-hand the ef­fects of over-test­ing on stu­dents.”

Holl­stein said a bal­ance be­tween test­ing and in­struc­tion must be struck.

“We want to have a strong as­sess­ment pro­gram, but we also want our as­sess­ment pro­gram to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion that per­tains to in­struc­tion, and not to take away a great deal of time,” Holl­stein said. “We need time to teach, but we do need some as­sess­ments. We have to be able to know that kids know the con­tent and we have to be able to know that kids know the con­tent and we as a school sys­tem need to be held ac­count­able for their progress. We need to have sen­si­ble test­ing.”

McLaugh­lin said the com­mis­sion’s re­port is a good start­ing point to ad­dress the ques­tion of overtest­ing, but that more work needs to be done.

“This is not the end of the con­ver­sa­tion; this is just the be­gin­ning of the con­ver­sa­tion,” McLaugh­lin said.

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