MARYLAND — Students throughout the state of Maryland have had a pretty hectic year with virtual and hybrid learning. Now, in addition to adjusting to this year's learning method, they have to complete statewide standardized testing in the Spring.
"I think testing is important to assess our children and see how well they learned at home," said Shawn Bartley, a member of the MD School Board. He added, "it also gives us an opportunity to assess our teachers and make sure our teachers have all the resources they need to be as effective online as they are in the classroom and I think this testing is important."
School leaders throughout the state agreed testing is important and a great measurement tool. However, many feel this isn't the right time for standardized testing.
"Our children have undergone an experience that none of us could have ever imagined. Those that will return to school have not been there in over a year. They will come to us for two days a week which are invaluable as they provide us the opportunity to provide in-person opportunities and social emotional learning our students have missed," said Stacy Shack from Baltimore County Public Schools. She went on to say, "based on the current schedule, our students will only be in school a total of 22 days this school year. To disrupt instructional time for up to 4-6 days of testing is not fair to our students or our teachers."
Cherly Bost from the Maryland State Department Association stressed those days should be used for instruction not testing.
"We need time to address social emotional challenges exasperated by the pandemic. We need to reinstall confidence in students that their schools are safe places that can help lower their stress levels not raise them. Students need the opportunity to reconnect with educators and their peers in the different hybrid models, not have to sit for hours taking a test they have never seen before."
State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon replied and said, "we've been giving statewide assessments on the computer for years so this is nothing our students haven’t done before. It’s a new assessment but it’s a similar platform so it’s not like they have to learn a new way to respond way to a question, etc."
This new testing was supposed to be introduced last year but was postponed because of the coronavirus. Students in grades 3-8 and high school will have to undergo testing for English and math. Testing for social students and science were dropped.
Several school leaders addressed their opinions about this new testing to the state school board. Despite their push to waive the testing, the testing is scheduled for Spring. The U.S. Department of Education made it clear, earlier this week, the testing would not be waived.
Since that is the case, school leaders offered some suggestions.
"We ask that no teachers be pulled from Their classrooms or teaching virtual to proctor and become test administrators," said Bost. She added, "test prep should not be the focus should not be the focus leading up to this test administration and no student should be pressured into taking these tests.
Others asked for the testing to be shortened. Right now, the math test is scheduled for nearly three hours and the English test is scheduled for nearly five hours. Dr. Salmon said this is something she would look into. She stressed the testing would have no consequences for the students or schools.
The School Board plans on discussing testing details and their next meeting in March.