Montgomery County schools need to change the way they test
Regarding the June 28 editorial “Save the tests”:
I disagree that changing assessments at Montgomery County Public Schools would hurt students and schools. First, the need for more regular instructional time is real — and the front-runner plan would increase such time by four weeks every year.
Second, the contention that MCPS’s finals and midterms are necessary to prepare students for college finals is flawed. Where is the college class with a final written for 10,000 students whom the professor has never seen? Varied assessments are now common in college, too.
In MCPS English classes, midterms and finals do not seem useful cumulative experiences. If one examines the scores by subgroup, it is clear that English-language learners and students with disabilities repeatedly fail these assessments for reasons that are not mysterious: At grade level, reading tasks are often out of reach for students with reading disabilities or students acquiring a new language. Far from being productive, these midterms and finals may discourage students, undermining hard-won progress made by their teachers.
The editorial board and the public likely have no idea how midterms and finals are experienced by subgroups of students. As reported in the Gazette, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) and eight other legislators have called for public access to assessment data to promote better understanding of the curriculum and widening achievement gaps. The Post should show more interest in subgroup performance data and the quality of the finals and midterms it has championed.