Grasmick to seek delay of a year to implement new graduation tests Proposal would allow more trial runs for teachers, students, provide extra data

December 04, 1998|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick intends to ask for a one-year delay in tests the state will require for high school graduation, giving students and teachers more trial runs and education officials enough data on which to base passing rates.

Instead of taking the tests for credit, as originally planned, members of Maryland's Class of 2004 would take the first tests in the winter and spring of 2001 -- their ninth-grade year -- but they would not count toward their diplomas, if the Maryland State Board of Education approves the proposal.

The first tests -- English I, algebra or geometry, government and biology in some counties -- would be required for graduation beginning with the Class of 2005, this year's sixth-graders.

The delay is only in counting the results of the test, not in administering them, said Ronald Peiffer, spokesman for the State Department of Education.

Postponing the start of for-credit testing would have two advantages, he said: Teachers and administrators would get a "better feel for what the test is like, and it would give us a lot of data."

Grasmick could propose the postponement as early as next week, when the state board meets for the final time this year. She also might wait until next month to take the proposal before the board, he said.

"I think it's good news," said Carmela Veit, president of the Maryland PTA, which has been critical of the tests. "I think we need the time to make sure the curriculum is in place and that the students are well-aware of all that's involved. It's important to get it right."

Peiffer would not say where the idea for the delay originated, but that school systems had indicated they would like an opportunity to give the test on a no-fault basis to work out logistics.

"When the state board first started talking about these tests, Dr. Grasmick and the board were adamant that this be done correctly," he said. "Everything is tentative until we are confident that it is safe to move on to the next stage."

The board has remained cautious as it approved phases of the high-stakes tests, which could deny diplomas to some students even though they have completed the curriculum of four years of high school.

The tests are designed to change high school curriculum and instruction and to demand more of students, who will live most of their lives in the 21st century.

The exams will replace the state's functional tests, which, although designed for high school students, are often passed by middle-schoolers.

The original timetable for the new tests called for students in the Class of 2004 to pass at least three tests, the Class of 2005 to pass seven tests and the Class of 2006 and thereafter to pass 10 tests in four core subjects to graduate.

The tests, a combination of multiple-choice and short and long essay questions, would be tied to specific courses, and students would take a test as soon as they complete the course.

The field tests for small groups of students remain on schedule and will be given by January 2001.

Teachers and principals will get their first inkling of what the tests, still being developed, will look like when prototypes of questions are distributed around the state in the next few weeks.

Pub Date: 12/04/98

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