Educators Fear Misuse Of Scores On State Test

April 07, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff writer

While county students scored higher than the state average on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test scores, some educators are afraid those scores will be used as a way of comparing one school to another.

That, they say, is unfair -- and maybe invalid. While a school's test results may seem poor, "the test measures what we're hoping to do by the year 2000," said Ron Peiffer, spokesman for the state Department of Education. "We are hoping people will not use(the results) to hold up to something eight years in the future.

"What schools are supposed to be doing now, they are doing."

"There is the baseline, and there is where we want to be," said ThomasJ. Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County. "I compare it to a 5-year-old who wants to be an Olympic ice skater. That 5-year-old will spend 10 to 15 years preparing for the Olympics. But when that 5-year-old goes out on the ice for the first time and falls, you don't call her a failure.

"If people were willingto look at (the test) that way, I wouldn't have a problem. But what will happen is real estate developers will get 'hold of the test scores and they'll tell people, 'You don't want to live there. Look at the test scores.' That's unfair."

Some schools have not received a copy of their test results. Administrators at those that had said theyneeded more time to evaluate the results.

Unlike standardized tests that require the memorization of facts to be answered in a multiple-choice format, the MSPAP attempts to mirror real-life situations. The format of the national SAT, a test taken by students intending to attend college, is being changed to resemble the format of the MSPAP,Peiffer said.

About 14,000 county students in third, fifth and eighth grades took the MSPAP for the first time last May. Next time, science and social studies will be added to this year's testing of reading, writing, mathematics and language usage.

County students scored at levels three and four of the MSPAP, with level one the highest and five the lowest. Statewide, the majority of students scored in levels four and five.

Schools are to evaluate their own data and make the necessary changes in the curriculum, Peiffer said.

Some parents and teachers believe it is unrealistic for the state to expect improvements in test performance and changes in the curriculum while cutting funding for education.

"Here we are looking at possibly laying off 400 teachers if (County Executive Robert R. Neall's) doomsday budget goes through," said Thomas J. Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County (TAAAC). "Where do we get the money to implement these tests?"

Paolino said he isn't opposed to the test, but the way it's been implemented and the way it will be interpreted.

Parents must understand that the MSPAP is not the kind of test they took when they were in school, Paolino said. The math portion of the test is 15 pages long and requires much writing. A student must do the first 10 pages of the test before arriving at a traditional math problem, Paolino said.

"If you look at the test, even the kid who scored in level four (of the writing section) could write,"Paolino said. "It's just that the developers of the test didn't think he included enough information to reach level one. Who knows, maybe(they) decided you had to write like Hemingway to score level one.

Here is the school-by-school breakdown of the 1991 Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. Numbers show the percentage of students achieving that level of performance:

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