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Writing questions to be cut from state exams

September 18, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The essay and short-answer questions on Maryland High School Assessments will be eliminated by May 2009, officials said Monday.

By removing those questions and scoring only multiple choice questions, results will be available faster, according to the Maryland State Department of Education. That allows school systems to quickly help the students who need extra assistance, Washington County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Instruction Donna Hanlin said.

"If we get the data sooner, we can place students in remediation sooner," she said.

Hanlin said the decision to eliminate the writing portions of the assessments will not affect the school system's curriculum and the importance placed on writing.

Students who entered high school in 2005-06 and who are expected to graduate in 2009 are the first group of students who must pass the exams in biology, algebra, government and English in order to receive a Maryland high school diploma.

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The writing questions will be replaced by questions with "higher order" thinking involved, said Bob Brown, the school system's coordinator of testing and accountability. Local officials say they are unsure whether removing those questions will have any affect on student scores.

"It's not a matter of making the test easier," Brown said. "It makes it easier to score."

The most recent High School Assessment scores received in August were the results of the exams students took in May, Hanlin said.

Brown said it can take about 12 weeks or longer after students take the exams to receive the results.

By removing the essay and short answer portions from the exams, the turnaround will be reduced to less than one month, Maryland State Department of Education spokesman Bill Reinhard said.

Some of the essay and short-answer questions will be removed in May 2008, and they all will be eliminated by May 2009.

"It doesn't change the way we provide instruction for students and the emphasis we place on writing," Hanlin said.

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