Student assessment test questions not answered by state board of ed

July 17, 1997


Staff Writer

Many of the questions raised when state school officials started talking about requiring students to pass high-level assessment tests to receive a diploma still haven't been answered, and local school officials said Tuesday that poses problems.

The uncertainty has caused a lot of frustration throughout the state, said Beatrice Gordon, a school board member in Montgomery County who is on the Maryland State Board of Education's High School Assessment Task Force.

Gordon, during a Washington County Board of Education work session on Tuesday, was asked to update board members and school system administrators on the state board's progress in developing a high school assessment system.


After her presentation, Gordon fielded questions and noted concerns she said she'll share with the state school board.

Under the Maryland State Department of Education's tentative plan, all Maryland high school students will be required to pass 10 of 12 assessment tests - three in English, two in math, two in science and three in social studies - before receiving their high school diplomas.

The tests, which will measure mastery of "core learning goals" already outlined by the state, will be an extension of the Maryland School Performance Assessment program tests being given in the third, fifth and eighth grades, Gordon said.

Testing would start in 1999 on a no-fault basis, and students entering the sixth grade this fall would be the first held to the requirement, she said.

But the state board hasn't made the plan official yet, Gordon said.

While it has been firm that the tests will be "high risk," the state board hasn't decided if passing them will be a graduation requirement, Gordon said.

The intention is to design them to ensure that a Maryland diploma will inspire the same level of confidence throughout the state, she said.

School board members, subject area supervisors and middle and high school principals voiced frustration with the fact the state board hasn't made a decision.

"It's difficult to get teachers serious about it when the same questions are still out there," said Boyd J. Michael III, principal of Hancock Middle-Senior High School.

Among concerns aired on Tuesday were:

n Fear the dropout rate would dramatically increase because of projected 50 percent failure rate.

n Fear that local school systems would end up paying for the testing program.

n Concern that there won't be enough years of no-fault testing to give teachers and administrators time to adjust.

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