Howard County Times
Howard County

Howard PTA Council calls for MSA waiver

The PTA Council of Howard County is calling for a swifter end to the annual student test known as the Maryland School Assessment.

On Monday, Jan. 6, the council approved a resolution asking the Maryland State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery to apply for a waiver for the annual student test, which is in its last year.


“The MSA isn’t on track with the curriculum,” said PTA Council President Christina Delmont-Small. “We are now fully entrenched in the Common Core.”

Howard County, with the rest of Maryland, is preparing to roll out a new student test from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) next year, with a pilot run this spring.

But Howard County is still set to administer the MSA this spring, as it is required under No Child Left Behind.


Furthermore, the PARCC assessment is aligned with the Common Core, the new educational standards currently being taught, while the MSA is not.

When MSA scores across the state — including in Howard County — dropped last year, school officials pointed to the transitional rollout to the Common Core and the resulting mismatch between curriculum and test as reason for the decline.

The council's resolution also asks the Howard County Board of Education and local delegate to the Maryland General Assembly to advocate for an MSA waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.

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Delmont-Small said the PTA Council in Montgomery County recently passed a similar resolution calling for an MSA waiver, and efforts are afoot in Washington County to drop out of the test as well.

More than 60 members of the council, which is made up of delegates from all the county's PTAs, were at Monday's meeting. Only two delegates voted against the resolution.

Howard County Education Association President Paul Lemle said the teachers union would take up discussing the resolution next week.

If a waiver is issued, Lemle said, it has to be state-wide, and not to individual counties. Lemle said there would be "emergency legislation" in the Maryland General Assembly this session to direct the Maryland State Department of Education to request a waiver from the federal department. That would require a three-fifths vote, Lemle said.

Howard County Superintendent Renee Foose, in a letter to the Baltimore Sun last summer, asked Lowery and the state board to apply for a waiver.


Nothing has yet come of that request, said Howard board Vice-Chairwoman Ann De Lacy, who was at the council meeting.

"You can make the argument saying 'they're probably not going to (apply for a waiver), so why do it?" Delmont-Small said. "It's because we're parents and we have a voice. If we as a group feel this way, we should exercise our ability to put forth how we would like to see education in our schools. … There's no harm in asking."