"We're in this as a partnership. Schools are not in this by themselves," said John Festerman, the new director of secondary education at the Washington County Board of Education.
The tests, started in 1990, set tougher standards for students. While assessment tests used to measure how many facts students had memorized, the new ones have students analyzing data and getting their first taste of physics.
In one of the exercises, students drop a tennis ball from four different heights, and measure how high it bounces. The exercise is repeated three times at each height, and students have to calculate the "mean height" of each rebound.
Students also have to make a graph showing the mean rebound heights, and explain what type of energy was acting on the ball when it was still and when it was dropped.
The tasks and word problems test students' ability in science, math and reading, said Festerman. But more than that, it teaches them how to absorb data and analyze it, he said.
"It's very high-order thinking," said Festerman.
The poster being distributed to parents illustrates the "Bounce Back Ball" exercise given at the fifth-grade level. The posters are being distributed to parents as they attend parent-teacher conferences this month, Festerman said.
Two other series of posters will be released showing samples of Maryland School Performance Assessment Test questions that will be given to third- and eighth-graders this year.
Fifth-graders will take the test May 4-8 and third- and eighth-graders will take it May 11-15, Festerman said.
In addition to the posters being distributed through parent-teacher conferences, parents can obtain complete versions of the sample tasks by calling the Maryland State Department of Education Public Information Line at 1-888-246-0016.