Officials to delay results of tests State hasn't decided how to apply data to school projects

March 28, 1991|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

State education officials will delay publishing data from new academic tests scheduled to be given in Maryland for the first time this May.

The state Board of Education voted yesterday to delay release of the test data until members know how the results will apply to the state's school-improvement program.

That means the data will not be part of the state's annual November "report card" on local school performance. Most likely, it will be February, at the earliest, before the new test results will be ready, said Joseph L. Shilling, state school superintendent.

But the board's vice president left no doubt that the results will be made public, even though local superintendents would prefer the first year's data to remain confidential.

"It's going to be released," said John C. Sprague. "I'd like to place it, for release, in the hands of the superintendents."

The complex new tests, known as criterion-referenced tests, are intended to measure how well students master academic subjects, and how well they use that material.

The new tests differ from traditional, multiple-choice tests, which compare a student's performance against that of other students, not against an objective standard.

The criterion-referenced tests emphasize writing, problem-solving and the application of knowledge. They are given to small groups over several days.

The first round of tests will be given to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders around the state in May, and will cover reading, writing, language usage and mathematics.

The testing program will be expanded in May 1992, with the addition of 11th-graders and tests covering social studies and science.

But teachers and local superintendents have voiced concern about the speed with which the program is being put into effect.

The superintendents had urged the board to use the first year as a pilot test and not release the scores, or to release them separately from the annual "report card."

Board members voted to leave the first year's results out of this November's report card, and defer a decision on releasing the data while the staff decides on how the tests should be scored.

In other business yesterday, the board learned that 274 people have expressed interest in the state's new resident teacher certificate program, which lets college graduates become teachers without the usual teacher training.

Under that program, a college graduate can get a temporary teaching certificate, while completing additional course work and residency under the supervision of a teacher/mentor.

The program was approved by the board in December, and local school systems will be able to hire the first candidates for the school year that starts in September.

To date, the program has drawn interest from candidates around the state and from as far away as Michigan and California. Locally, the program has drawn interest from about 30 people laid off at Westinghouse, which recently cut 1,200 jobs.

The board also approved minimum school health service standards for all jurisdictions. The standards were mandated by a 1957 state law and were first presented to the board in 1982.

Among other things, the standards will require a physical examination for every student entering the school system, hearing and vision screenings for all students, and health counseling.

Other requirements include a health care area and a health care professional, such as a nurse or doctor, who provides services to the school system.

"We're talking about minimal services," said Michele Prumo, a health specialist with the state Education Department.

But she said that the standards assure that school systems can deal with emergencies, provide first aid and identify children with chronic health problems.

Prumo said the cost will vary by jurisdiction. Harford, Baltimore, and Montgomery counties already are in compliance, she said. Baltimore is about 75 percent in compliance.

In another matter, the board received a task force report urging greater emphasis on science and mathematics education, including more training for teachers.

The task force recommended, among other things, that math and science teachers be evaluated to see whether they are prepared to teach -- and that time and money be set aside for teacher training.

It also recommended that math and science teachers be required to continue taking courses in their field in order to maintain their teaching certificates.

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