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About 120,000 students in Maryland are taking the state's newest standardized tests this month, and by most accounts the process has gone well. After two years in which the state's assessments were tied to a curriculum that is no longer being used, the tests and what's being taught in the classroom are finally aligned. That's why we're puzzled by Gov. Larry Hogan's recent suggestion that he might want to revisit whether the state should be using the tests to gauge student progress, reiterating his campaign line about hitting the "pause button" on the test. The new assessment has barely been tried, and scrapping it now not only would be costly for the state but would waste years of effort educators spent developing it. Unless some serious, unanticipated flaw comes to light as a result of this year's test, it's far too soon for talk about replacing it with something else.

The state board of education reports it had a smooth rollout for the Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC exams, which replace the old Maryland School Assessment tests. The PARCC tests were developed over several years with nearly a dozen other state education boards, and they are keyed to the more rigorous Common Core standards adopted by Maryland and most other states. Educators hope the new assessment tool eventually will allow them to get a better handle on how Maryland students stack up against their peers elsewhere in the country and around the world, as well as point to where instruction needs to be improved.

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Unfortunately, some parents and politicians seem to have gotten the wrong idea about what the new test is or what the Common Core standards are. Neither are federal projects; they were both developed by the states with the idea of creating common benchmarks for measuring student achievement, especially in math, reading and science. And while they may be national in outlook they are not an example of Washington telling local school boards what to teach. The PARCC tests are being given in only 11 states this year, and while at one time it was thought more states might use them, that isn't what's happening at the moment.

And if not PARCC, what? Going back to the old MSAs isn't an option; those tests don't reflect the mastery of critical thinking skills students need to succeed. The state would have to develop another new test, at great expense in time and money. And it's unclear what would happen in the meantime, since the state would risk a substantial loss of federal funding because the U.S. Department of Education requires all states to administer some type of test to measure student achievement.

The experience of other jurisdictions is also instructive. Florida recently pulled out of the PARCC tests with the intention of going it alone, but the result has been disastrous for the state's schools. And the Chicago school system briefly toyed with the idea of refusing to test students at all until it realized the likely consequences of flouting federal law and backtracked on the proposal. Other states that have considered the matter mostly have come to conclusion that rather than try to re-invent the wheel they'd be better off rolling with what they had for a while.

Legislators are considering a task force to study whether Maryland students in the higher grades are being tested too often. That's a question worth looking into, but it's somewhat tangential to the main issue of whether Maryland should stick to PARCC and the Common Core.

The reality is that most parents and educators have accepted the need for testing and are taking the transition to PARCC and the Common Core seriously. It's unfair to them and the state's young people to keep them in limbo by dangling the vague chimera of a better system that the state can't define and couldn't afford even if it existed.

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