State school board won't back off MSAs

Maryland's state Board of Education said Tuesday that state testing will go forward as planned, despite calls from school district superintendents and the teachers union for a one-year moratorium.

The state board voted 10-1 Tuesday to seek waivers from the U.S. Department of Education that would prevent double testing of students and place a one-year delay on the use of student test data to evaluate teachers' job performance.


The state is also asking that its school accountability system be suspended for a year. Critics had said that the state should have gone further and asked the federal government for a one-year moratorium on testing.

Linda Eberhart, a member of the state school board and former Baltimore teacher, abstained from the vote, saying, "I don't think we should be giving the Maryland School Assessment this year. I do know it is federal law ... but this makes no sense."


Next year the MSAs will be given in reading and math even though they are not aligned with new standards being taught across the country. So students will not be tested on the common core, the standards and curriculum that is being taught beginning this fall in all school districts. Some superintendents and teachers say the MSA results will produce little valuable information about student performance.

Maryland will give 50,000 students a field test of the new assessment that will replace the MSA. Those students will not have to take both the field test and the MSA if Maryland's waiver is approved by the federal government. In addition, the state will not judge its schools on the basis of the old tests.

"We wanted to make sure that students and teachers were held harmless," said Charlene Dukes, the board's president.

The tests, which cost $6 million to give, according to state officials, must be given because federal law requires testing of all students in grades three through eight in public schools.

Many of Maryland's superintendents, as well as the Maryland State Education Association, had asked for a moratorium until the new tests are given during the 2014-2015 school year.

California legislators voted this month not to test this school year, but U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that he might take federal funds away from the state if it does not test students.

"I would love to see all the states band together and say, 'No, this is not what we should be doing,'" Eberhart said.

State board member James H. DeGraffenreidt Jr. said Maryland could not responsibly ignore federal law and put federal dollars at risk.