Maryland school systems continue to modify their curricula in order to prepare students for the upcoming PARCC Exams. This year, Baltimore County middle and high school ELA teachers have been tasked with administering eight PBAs (Performance-Based Assessments) in the style of PARCC to all of their students. These assessments have been incredibly time-consuming to administer, e.g. PBA 9.2.1 took two full weeks to administer to my ninth graders. As a result of feedback, BCPS’ ELA office will be selecting four PBAs per grade level to require next year. A cadre of teachers is engaging in range finding and will be creating scoring guides with sample student responses and instructional suggestions to aid teachers’ implementation of PBAs next year.
Although MSDE continues to be enthusiastic about Maryland’s new battery of assessments, others are questioning the time and resources that are being allocated to these exams. After backlash from kindergarten teachers regarding readiness tests, “the Maryland state teachers’ union is calling on the state to suspend its new kindergarten-readiness test, saying that it takes too much time away from instruction and makes developmentally inappropriate demands on children” (Gewertz).
Currently, Maryland’s legislators are examining Maryland’s use of assessments and testing in public schools via House Bill 452 and Senate Bill 497. This issue is drawing bipartisan support. Lessner of the Maryland Reporter explains, “HB 452 proposes the creation of a 19-person commission dedicated to studying the effectiveness of Maryland assessments and standardized tests in public school. The bill is co-sponsored by 27 Democrats and 11 Republicans, including the House majority and minority leaders and the Ways & Means chair.” Veteran math teacher, Delegate Ebersole, informed the Ways and Means Committee “that standardized test results do not help teachers realize areas where students are struggling, as they were designed to do. Instead, they are pitting communities and schools against each other.”
NPREd’sKamenetz reports that Montgomery County Schools are already utilizing alternative measures that have been found to “do a better job of predicting college persistence and GPA than do high school GPA, SATs or ACT scores… The Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland survey both students and teachers on social and emotional factors and use the results to guide internal decision-making. The district uses thea 20-question survey that seeks to measure levels of hope, engagement and well-being.”
Although student engagement and motivation have not been of primary concern with regard to high-stakes assessments, NCTE’sAdolescent Literacy: A Policy Research Brief acknowledges that “motivation can determine whether adolescents engage with or disengage from literacy learning.”