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Rumors of school violence delay MSPAP tests

May 06, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Rumors that violent attacks might occur at schools around Maryland on Monday have prompted the state schools superintendent to postpone state standardized tests scheduled for that day.

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State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick announced Thursday afternoon a one-day delay in Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests, which were scheduled to be given Monday to all students in grades three and eight.

The tests, known as MSPAP tests, are given to all students in those grades for one week.

As a result of the delay, third- and eighth-graders across the state will take the tests Tuesday through the following Monday, May 17.

According to a statement released Thursday by the Maryland Department of Education, Grasmick said: "Previous dates have come and gone without incident and we anticipate the same for May 10. However, the Internet seems to have augmented the rumors, and we have information that the rumors being circulated go well beyond Maryland borders. A one-day delay in MSPAP testing will give students and teachers a school day free from the stresses of testing."

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Grasmick added: "This brief hiatus will allow schools to conduct business as usual and hopefully ease the concerns of those parents and students affected by the rumors. The one-day delay will take MSPAP out of the equation for schools on May 10, allowing teachers and principals to begin testing on May 11 under conditions more conducive to optimum performance. While we regret that we must make this adjustment, the welfare of students and school staffs are our priority."

Rumors of pending violence in school systems around the country have flourished since April 20, when two high school students in Littleton, Colo., went on a murderous rampage killing 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide.

Assistant State Superintendent Ron Peiffer said that Monday, May 3 was another one of the days singled out in rumors circulating around the state and possibly the nation.

There were no incidents of mass violence on Monday, and school officials expect the upcoming Monday to also pass quietly. But the rumors of violence did keep away large numbers of Washington County students.

On Monday, 28 of the 47 Washington County schools reported absentee rates of more than 10 percent. At North Hagerstown High School 46 percent of the students were absent.

Peiffer said that Grasmick decided to postpone the first day of testing for third- and eighth-graders after requests from several school systems around the state.

MSPAP testing of Maryland fifth-graders began Monday, without a delay, and is expected to finish today.

Washington County Director of Elementary Education John Festerman said the test scores for fifth-graders will be adversely affected by the high number of absences.

"There should be some asterisk behind the scores," Festerman said.

Peiffer said the scores from this week's tests will be analyzed for anomalies.

"We don't anticipate any issues, but we may have to adjust how we report the scores," Peiffer said.

MSPAP tests require students to demonstrate proficiency in math, science, social studies, reading, language skills and writing.

The tests are given to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders every May.

MSPAP test results are used to rank school systems and track education trends.

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