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MSPAP tests for eighth-graders will no longer be mandatory

March 06, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

The Maryland State Department of Education announced Tuesday that the MSPAP tests for eighth-graders throughout the state will no longer be mandatory, and the program will eventually be phased out for all grades over the next several years, Assistant State Superintendent Ron Peiffer said.

The MSPAP (Maryland School Performance Assessment Program) tests will be replaced with new assessments to gauge individual student performance, and eighth-graders may be taking a new standardized test as early as next school year, Peiffer said.

The changes are part of an evolution over the next decade to keep in line with the new federal education law and to strengthen accountability and student achievement, he said.

"I think things are going to look a lot different a few years down the road," Peiffer said. "MSPAPs as we know it will probably be gone in a few years."

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An assessment for seventh-graders may also be in place next school year, Peiffer said. The seventh- and eighth-grade tests would be reading and math assessments and contain short-answer, essay and multiple-choice questions.

Peiffer said the tests would resemble the High School Assessments, a series of tests being given to ninth-graders.

Beginning in 2003, ninth-graders will have to pass the High School Assessments to graduate.

By removing the eighth-grade MSPAP requirement, middle schools will have more time to prepare students for the high school tests.

The move is the first of several generated from recommendations made by the state's Visionary Panel for Better Schools and President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education plan.

The Visionary Panel was created by the state to make recommendations on ways to improve student achievement in Maryland's public schools over the next 10 years.

The MSPAP tests will still be a requirement for third- and fifth-graders this school year. The MSPAP tests are used to measure how schools are performing, not the individual performances of students.

While the eighth-grade MSPAP tests this year are not mandatory, it's up to local school systems to decide whether they want their students to take them.

Carol Mowen, Washington County Board of Education's public information officer, said the school system has not yet decided whether it will drop the eighth-grade MSPAP tests.

She said board administrators will meet to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to the eighth-grade MSPAP option.

Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said board administrators will probably present their recommendations on whether to remove the eighth-grade tests to the School Board at the March 19 meeting.

Peiffer said the removal of the MSPAPs over the next several years will benefit the state public school system in the long run.

"It may be gone, but stronger accountability measures will be in place," he said.

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