Snow delays MSA testing in some school districts

The snow continued to play havoc with school schedules Monday, delaying the beginning of state testing in some places and keeping students home for yet another day.

All Baltimore-area school systems have used more days than allotted in the school calendar for snow and must find ways to make up those days. School districts also are adjusting their schedules for state testing, which was scheduled to begin Tuesday in some counties, as some students still might have trouble getting to school or focusing on academics.


Baltimore City decided to delay the start of the Maryland School Assessments for one day, to Wednesday. And Anne Arundel County, which announced it would be closed Tuesday, postponed testing to Thursday. State officials allow school districts the option of when to give the math and English tests within a 10-day period.

Ashley Abrahams, a teacher and MSA testing coordinator at Waverly Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, said that one of her main roles has been to schedule MSA testing down to the minute. She said she was grateful to have Tuesday to get students back into a routine. Also, most city students walk to school or rely on public transit, and conditions could remain icy Tuesday, with city schools opening two hours late.

"At first, I was a little stressed out about it — there's a lot of scheduling behind the testing — but knowing that we'll have a full day to figure out what changes we'll have to make is great," Abrahams said. "For teachers, it's an extra day to make sure their classroom is prepared, and you don't want kids coming in all confused from a snow day."

Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties will postpone testing for up to a week after announcing a two-hour delay for Tuesday. Harford County, which has announced a two-hour delayed opening, still planned to hold MSA testing Tuesday for most grades.

The MSAs have been used in the past to judge school performance, but not this year. The decade-old MSAs are not aligned to the new Common Core standards now being taught in schools across the state. The state also has asked for a federal waiver from using the scores to judge teachers as part of their evaluations.

A field test of a new assessment will be given in schools around the state beginning March 24.

Meanwhile, some students should expect to lose some summer days.

Anne Arundel County has closed eight days for bad weather, four more days than had been budgeted. Spokesman Bob Mosier said that the system will add the additional days to the end of the year, making June 23 the last day of school unless the county receives a waiver from the state.

Some school districts are expected to ask the Maryland State Board of Education to waive a requirement that every public school hold classes for 180 days a year because of the unusual number of snow days. Those requests are typically made every spring, after the chance of snow is over, according to William Reinhard, a spokesman for the education department.

Baltimore County, which builds seven days into its calendar for bad weather, has only one day to make up. Superintendent Dallas Dance has said he will seek approval from the Baltimore County school board to send students to class March 31, when schools were to be closed for teacher training.

Baltimore City has been off for eight days, three more than allotted. Spokeswoman Edie House said the district is doing a "calendar review in order to make the appropriate adjustments."

Howard County has been closed two days beyond the five scheduled and has not announced how it will make up the days.

Harford County has taken away some of spring vacation and added days to the end of the school year to make up for the nine days that schools have been closed for weather, according to the school district's website.

Carroll County built five days into its calendar for school closings but has used 10 days, according to spokeswoman Carey Gaddis. Schools were open on Presidents Day, which had been a school holiday. Officials plan to ask for a waiver, and if it isn't granted, will add days to the end of the school calendar.