Let’s See If We Can Get it Right This Time…
If my memory is serving me correctly, the Maryland State Department of Education has tried five times in the last 30 years to come up with a statewide standardized testing program - all in the name of improving instruction.
The latest and greatest failure is the Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers, better known as the PARCC tests.
Everyone agrees that the tests are too long. They are too disruptive to the instructional process and the results come back too late for the teaching staff to do anything that approximates using the test information to inform instruction.
But worst of all, after three years of teaching to this test, the kids are still not passing it. Just 34 percent of the State’s elementary and middle-school students passed the most recent PARCC tests in math; nearly 42 percent did not pass in English. These results are politically unsustainable. I mean even kids in the economically advanced counties aren’t passing the things. The tests are based on the content from the Common Core curriculum. Most education experts have said all along that the standards in Common Core did not align with child development, but what do they know. The tests take upwards of 9 1/2 hours to give. The idea originally was that all states would give the same test based on the same standards and school systems could be compared across states. That idea really never got off the ground. About half the states went with a different test right from the beginning- the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium. That always sounded like a butter substitute to me but what do I know.
So for this current school year, Maryland together with New Jersey, New Mexico and the District of Columbia will be the last hold-outs for the PARCC assessments.
Education is one of the biggest deals to governors. You will notice that Governor Hogan is claiming credit for the most money for education ever! That is great but he really didn't have anything to do with it, there is a state law the dictates the increase every year.
So when people complain about a state-wide test and scores on those tests by students are terrible even in the “good” school systems what’s a governor to do. Simple leave that test for another one.
And that is exactly what Maryland is hoping to do for the 2019-2020 school year. The State Department of Education has put out a request for proposals (RFP) for a company to come forth and develop the new test, it will be called the MCAP, Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program. Kind of catchy don’t you think?
The teachers’ unions are all over it. It doesn’t exist yet but it is going to be shorter and the results will be back sooner. But don’t you worry it will be just as rigorous. Citizens be assured this is going to be no PARCC Light with a Maryland seal on the cover. No cost figures have been released as to how much this ever better standardized test will cost the taxpayers after spending millions and millions on the PARC test. Trust me it will be a bundle.
We have had Project Basic, MSPAP, MSA, HSA, PARCC- now comes MCAP. Maybe the State will finally get it right this time- or maybe they will decide to use all that money to put better instructional programs in place for the students. Nah, we are not quitters. We will keep trying to get a state test that will be politically viable.