Local school superintendents are urging the state school board to delay for a year publishing the scores from a new test to be given to thousands of Maryland students this May.
But they met a skeptical reception yesterday from board members who cited freedom of information concerns and the need to keep the new testing program on schedule.
The new tests, known as "criterion referenced tests," measure actual student performance, based on objective standards of how much a student knows and how the student uses that knowledge.
The tests, which are still being developed, are expected to include writing, problem-solving and other elements. They will be far different from the multiple-choice tests currently in use.
Students in the third, fifth and eighth grades statewide are due to take the tests for the first time this May, and the results will be published in the Maryland School Performance Program report next February.
But a panel of four local superintendents said they were concerned about the speed with which the new tests are to be included in the state's annual "report card" on local schools.
"We think that the May testing should be used as a form of field testing," said John H. Bloom, superintendent of Charles County and president of the state superintendents' association.
He said problems in the tests could emerge when they are given for the first time, and said the fast schedule has caused great concern for the teachers who will give the tests.
"This thing needs a shakedown cruise, and we ought to have it this May," he said.
And Larry Lorton, Anne Arundel County superintendent, also warned that the results could be misinterpreted by the news media, arguing for a delay in publishing the scores.
But board members were skeptical.
"I think you're kidding yourselves that it will not become a part of the public record," said member Donald P. Hutchinson. Information inevitably will leak out, he said.
Hutchinson said that if there are concerns about the validity of the test in the first year, it could be given on a limited basis at first.
Robert C. Embry Jr., board president, questioned whether the new test results would draw much attention, coming as part of the overall report card.
"I don't see the focus on it that you seem to see in terms of the public reacting," he said.
Speaking during a break, board Vice President John C. Sprague said he was sympathetic to the concerns of teachers and superintendents, but wants the program to go ahead as scheduled.