Testing in Public Education - Part 1

Posted on: Thu, 09/27/2018 - 09:00

Many people celebrated recent news that Maryland will be moving away from the PARCC testing program. However, federal and state mandates still require testing, so what will be next?

Testing and accountability have been a cornerstone of state policy since the 1980s when the Maryland Functional Testing Program began. By the 1990s, the state testing program included the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) and the High School Assessments. When the federal government passed No Child Left Behind, Maryland replaced MSPAP with the Maryland School Assessments (MSA). To qualify for the federal Race to the Top program, Maryland transitioned to the Partnership to Assess Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) testing program. The controversy associated with the Race to the Top program spread to the PARCC consortium as well, and Maryland recently decided to move to a new assessment as the contract for PARCC ended.

Criticism associated with the PARCC assessment ranged from the time it took to conduct testing to its online administration to the cut scores for meeting standards. This criticism expanded to include concerns about "teaching to the test" as well as the pressure on teachers to constantly improve test scores, especially when Race to the Top required test scores to be part of a teacher’s evaluation.

Congress heard the criticism and recently passed the Every Student Succeeds Act. This legislation eliminated the requirements related to teacher evaluation, but it upheld the requirements for testing and accountability for schools. So as Maryland moves away from PARCC, the state will still be obligated to test students in grades 3-8 and once in high school in reading and math. Science testing must occur once at every level (elementary, middle, and high.) 

What comes next? The Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) is the new name for the series of assessments necessary to comply with state and federal testing mandates.  At this point, it is not clear what test will replace PARCC, but the test will need to measure the same state standards. Thus, it may not be all that different.

So are people excited because PARCC is going away? Or did people believe that the standardized testing program was going away?

In my next blog, I will explore the love-hate relationship that Marylanders and many Americans seem to have with testing.

Do you have strong feelings about PARCC? Share them on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.