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State test delay ‘provides more time ... to be teaching kids,’ Carroll County Public School official says

Maryland’s board of education waived state testing until the fall and Carroll County Public Schools plans to make use of what is viewed as more time for instruction.

The state superintendent initially said testing would occur this spring despite the issues created by the coronavirus pandemic and the CCPS community expressed concern. However, the decision was changed 10 days later and the tests have been postponed until the fall. CCPS received word on Thursday about the board’s vote to waive testing this spring and Jason Anderson, chief academics, equity and accountability officer for CCPS, said they would follow suit.

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Anderson said they value “any type of metric achievement of students” since it essentially drives instruction and curriculum development. However, they do see the value in “uninterrupted instructional time” this semester and not having teachers and students work around a seven-hour test. The public school system has focused its attention on student recovery after the number of failing grades has significantly increased compared with last school year. The school system plans to reveal its recovery strategy, which could take at least 18 months and cost millions of dollars, in a meeting this month.

The state said it plans to require testing in the fall but the test will be diagnostic and shorter. The English diagnostic test is 2 hours, 20 minutes and the math test is 1 hour, 20 minutes, both about half the time of the full assessments.

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The state test was discussed at the Feb. 24 CCPS Board of Education meeting when board member Tara Battaglia asked about it. At the time, the state said the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program, or MCAP, were happening and Anderson told the board the state received a waiver to waive the accountability piece. He said at the time it would be a “diagnostic measure” and “abbreviated experience.” Members were not yet sure how the test would have been administered with about half of students learning from home.

Anderson said he wanted to commend the high schools for being one of the few in the state to take the science and government MCAPs. Anderson said in an interview there was a window earlier in the year to take the tests in those subjects and about 80% of students participated in the in-person exam.

“It had been, or currently still is, a state requirement to actually take the exam,” he said, adding that students will have to take it eventually.

However, it was optional for students to take during that time, he said, and the majority of Maryland students did not. He noted that many students in the state were not yet in the building during that time.

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Angie McCauslin, the director of curriculum and instruction for CCPS, said the window for the science and history assessment closed Feb. 5, and they do not yet know when they will receive the test results.

The state decision was applauded by educators including the president of the Maryland State Education Association. She said in a news release on Thursday that students do not need standardized tests but more instructional, social and social-emotional awareness time.

“We thank the state board for their support of less testing and more learning for our students and urge the U.S. Department of Education to quickly approve Maryland’s request,” she said in her statement.

Anderson said the waived assessment “provides more time for our teachers to be teaching kids for the entire semester.”

Battaglia said during the Feb. 24 meeting that she heard the stress level of teachers and students went up when they thought they would be taking a traditional state test.

“I don’t think it’s the right year for standardized testing,” she said at the meeting.

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