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Proposed budget would eliminate government high school assessment test

January 25, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Starting with the Class of 2012, Maryland public high school students might no longer need to take an assessment test measuring their knowledge of government — a test that has been part of statewide graduation requirements.

Maryland Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick advised local schools superintendents in a Jan. 21 letter that the governor's proposed fiscal  2012 budget eliminates the government high school assessment test, according to a copy of the letter.

"This is necessary because of budget constraints and is also consistent with our beginning transition to the Common Core Standards for the new state curriculum," Grasmick wrote in the letter.

Eliminating the test would save $1.9 million for the state, William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald-Mail.

Grasmick said that the "last administration" of the government assessment test will be in May and that "requirements stand for the Class of 2011."

Donna Hanlin, Washington County's assistant superintendent for curriculum, school administration and improvement, said she did not know how long the government test cut will be in effect.

Affecting that decision could be the implementation of the Common Core Standards, a national revision of curriculum and assessment tests to make both more rigorous, Hanlin said.

New assessment tests are to start in the 2014-15 school year, Hanlin said. Maryland is part of a group of states developing assessment tests that would be field tested during the 2013-14 school year, she said.

Currently, high school students take four assessment tests: math, English, biology and government.

The math and English tests count toward whether schools or the school system meet adequate yearly progress, Hanlin said.

To graduate, students must pass all four tests or earn a combined score equal to the total of the four passing scores, or earn a passing score on approved substitute tests, or meet most of the HSA requirements through completion of a bridge program or project, according to the local school system's website at www.wcps.k12.md.us.

If the elimination of the government assessment is approved with the budget, the Maryland State Board of Education will revise the graduation regulations for the 2012 graduating class, Reinhard said.

The government test was chosen for elimination because the federal No Child Left Behind law does not have an assessment requirement for social studies/government, Reinhard said. No Child Left Behind is a federal education reform initiative begun under President George W. Bush.

The state assessments are also in the process of changing to comply with the Common Core Standards, Reinhard said.

"This is a very tight budget atmosphere," Reinhard wrote.

School board member Donna Brightman asked about the HSA change during a Tuesday morning budget meeting, inquiring as to any local savings from the change.

Hanlin said the cost savings will be realized by the state, through expenditure cuts for testing materials and scoring. However, eliminating the assessment test would save the local school system time, she said.

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