Teachers unsure of new tests, recent statewide survey shows

January 28, 1999|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

A statewide survey of high school teachers has found most opposed to tying graduation tests to diplomas beginning with the Class of 2005 and concern that the tests would put too much pressure -- not on the students, but on teachers.

Little more than one-third of the 650 teachers surveyed by the Maryland State Teachers Association agreed that the tests should be required for graduation. And nearly 60 percent said the tests -- imposing new standards for a diploma -- would put too much pressure on the teachers preparing students for them.

The teachers felt that the tests will encourage students to work harder and take responsibility for their education, but at the same time put too many at risk of not receiving diplomas.

"There are worries about if kids will be able to pass; there are worries about if it's going to be dumped down on teachers," MSTA president Karl K. Pence said of the survey findings released yesterday.

The graduation test requirement, approved by the Maryland State Board of Education three years ago, will first affect students currently in sixth grade. To receive a high school diploma, they will have to pass tests in English, U.S. government, math and, in some school systems, biology, according to the plans established by the state board.

Although 87 percent of teachers surveyed said they are very familiar or somewhat familiar with the tests, their answers to more detailed questions did not indicate familiarity, Pence said. For instance, only 19 percent knew when the tests would begin, and half weren't sure how many tests would be required.

Pence said this points up a big need: "We have to make sure that teachers are able to help students -- to have teachers understand what is necessary and have them help design the training programs."

Pence said the teachers' union sponsored the survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Campaign Polling Inc., because it wanted baseline information on attitudes toward the tests -- data that was not available when the state began its Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) testing of students in the third, fifth and eighth grades.

While the teachers indicated considerable uncertainty about the high school testing, the state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, said the lead time on the tests "has been extraordinary," and that the state agency has attempted to contact parents and educators about the tests.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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