State commission releases testing recommendations
School board to consider proposals next month
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.