Howard school board joins call for MSA waiver

The Board of Education is joining other education groups in Howard County to call for a waiver to the Maryland School Assessment.

On Thursday, Jan. 23, the board voted to support legislation requesting the Maryland State Department of Education ask for a waiver from the federal level. The board is the latest entity to call for an early end to the now-defunct test still being administered despite its misalignment with curriculum.

Superintendent Renee Foose, the PTA Council of Howard County and the Howard County Education Association have also called for the waiver. Foose made her request in a letter to The Baltimore Sun last summer; the PTA Council and HCEA passed resolutions calling for a waiver earlier this month.

The vote came during an appointment with the board's legislative committee, which several times a year presents recommendations on what bills the board should or should not support.

Board members worried, however, that the legislation is coming too late to have a real impact, and little could be done beyond a symbolic vote supporting a waiver. Foose agreed.

"I'm fairly certain MSA will go on as planned," she told the board. "The MSA is in March. That train has left the station. ...I would not encourage you to have hope that this is going to happen."

Still, the board ultimately voted to support the bill calling for a waiver.

Right now, the MSA is set to be administered for the last time this spring. However, the MSA is set to be replaced by a test from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career in 2015 — a test fully aligned with the new Common Core State Standards Initiative adopted by the state, which is also being piloted this spring. After a staggered rollout in some districts, new Common Core-aligned curricula were fully implemented at the start of this academic year. The new curriculum isn't aligned with MSA, and districts that had a staggered Common Core rollout saw drops in MSA scores last year as students were learning content for one test but taking another.

The board also voted against supporting a bill that would prohibit the implementation of the Common Core in Maryland. According to the report, not only does the bill "repudiate this critical education reform, but it would reduce the control of curriculum and assessment decisions by local school boards."

During voting last week, the board also voted to oppose a bill that provides $1 million in state capital funds to support school security systems, which the committee's report said would force the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction to reprioritize capital funds and reduce funding for other capital projects.

The board voted to support a bill that would require local school board to establish a toll-free bullying hotline. According to the committee report, the school system has a "proactive program to prevent bullying that is more comprehensive than required by this bill," which already includes a confidential website and a hotline.

A bill calling for the addition of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to the list of public agencies required to request a superintendent to appoint a parent surrogate to represent a child during the educational decision making process if it is suspected that the child may be disabled.

The board voted to support a bill creating a task force to study school start times. The Howard County Public School System has already started looking into this issue, with a feasibility study being conducted this year.

Votes were split on the bills regarding a bullying hotline and the start times. Ellen Giles, Cindy Vaillancourt and student member Albert Corvah voted against the start times bill. Giles, Vaillancourt and Brian Meshkin voted against supporting the bullying hotline bill.

For more information about these bills, or members' votes, go to

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