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Reworking MSPAP

April 01, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

Reworking MSPAP

With the feds' help

Two weeks ago The Herald-Mail questioned why State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick and her staff hadn't known that allowing some local school systems to opt out of the state's MSPAP tests might cost millions in federal funds. The answer is complicated and shows what states sometimes must put up with when they're dealing with Uncle Sam.

MSPAP - the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program - has been given to the state's third-, fifth and eighth-grade students for 10 years. It not only measures how well students have absobed the facts they've been taught, but also how well they can apply what they've learned.

In such a test, scoring can be subjective. And when scores took a deep dive in some metro-area counties this year, there were calls to eliminate MSPAP. Things seemed headed that way, until the feds said "whoa!"

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Ron Peiffer, the assistant state school superintendent, said that the confusion arose because president's education bill was just passed on Jan. 8, and that the regulations to implement it are still being written.

Any test that's developed to meet the president's guidelines will have to comply with four separate federal laws, as well as being valid and reliable, Peiffer said.

In other words, the president wants a testing program up and running as soon as possible. And what Maryland puts in place now will be the yardstick by which the state is measured - and federal funds dispensed - for years to come.

As we suggested March 14, Peiffer said that state is looking at saving time and money by purchasing a test from another state. The difficulty: How well will such a test match up with what's being taught in Maryland?

As Maryland officials struggle to keep up with changing U.S. requirements, we hope someone asks federal officials to consider the possibility that changing so much so quicklycould push veteran teachers to retiree sooner rather than later. That's one test we don't want our schools to face.

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