Md. educators call for moratorium on MSA test

A few school system superintendents and teachers’ unions in Maryland have asked the state to stop the Maryland School Assessments that test third- through eighth-graders every year in math and reading, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The request, officially made to Dr Lillian Lowery, the Maryland state superintendent of schools, came only a day after scores on the tests were released to the public. As we reported, scores fell a little in almost every grade, especially in math.

“The MSA will not provide valuable information on how well students and teachers are doing,” the paper quoted Adam Mendelson, a spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association, the teachers’ union, as saying. Giving the test, he said, would only use up “valuable time from teachers and students who are trying to get the Common Core right.”

The MSA measures learning standards found in the old State Curriculum, but teachers have been asked to begin making a transition in their lesson plans to material found in a new set of standards, known as the Common Core. Some of the material in the old State Curriculum isn’t in the Common Core and might not be taught by teachers in the state. So, if teachers aren’t teaching some topics that aren’t in the Common Core and if the tests contain quite a few questions about those topics, kids can’t be expected to answer most of those questions correctly. Scores can be expected to go down.

The question is, What can we do about this?

A moratorium is not likely to occur, since federal law requires that students in grades 3 through 8 be tested every year. We can’t just break the law because our test isn’t aligned.

Waivers from some of the requirements in the federal law have been requested and granted, but never from the annual testing requirement in the law.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.