Fewer Tests, More School

Readers write

June 09, 1991

From: Jean R. Thomas

Joppatowne

In May many students throughout the state of Maryland have undergone nine hours of testing relating to the Maryland School PerformanceProgram.

These tests were developed last July, field-tested in two areas in January, and were administered in May.

Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, chairman of the national committee to develop similar tests, expects to take five to 10 years developing valid testing mechanisms. Maryland's unseemly rush leads one to question the validity of the tests that our children have taken.

However, there are two evenmore significant issues for Harford County citizens.

One is that more than $1 million of county taxes has been diverted from the public education budget for staff time and material related to these tests.

A central office that does not even have a fax machine had to purchase data-processing equipment to supply the data required by the Maryland State Department of Education. Materials to prepare students to take this mysterious test were developed, and staff time was diverted to managing the program.

Finally, the local board of educationsqueezed $100,000 from other areas of an already tight budget to purchase calculators, protractors, crayons, etc., which were needed for every student taking the tests.

This money was taken from the budget of the school system that is third from the bottom in the state inper-pupil spending. It was taken because MSDE made regulations whichour system was compelled to obey but gave little money to the systemfor implementation.

The other issue of concern to citizens shouldbe the loss of instructional time. Although the tests may take 50 minutes, handing out all the materials , going through the pre-test activities, and collecting and accounting for everything at the end of the testing period may take as much as 1 1/2 hours.

In middle school the testing lasted a minimum of two periods every day for eight days. When one adds two days of pre-test lessons and another two weeks of a unit built around the test prototype, suddenly we are talking about significant amounts of time.

No wonder MSDE wants to add another 20 days of school. We need it just to administer tests.

Surely, there is a simpler way to improve education.

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