New tests may revamp school sports calendar

Aug. 1 practices possible to avoid exams in May

High Schools

April 01, 2000|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

State-mandated high school assessment tests scheduled to begin in 2002 could lead to an Aug. 1 starting date for fall-sport practices and a revamping of the entire sports calendar.

The tests, tentatively scheduled for the same week as regional playoffs in May 2002, were given priority over athletics at a meeting of Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association officials Jan. 28. The MPSSAA governs athletic programs at 178 schools.

The MPSSAA's 14-member executive council, composed of principals and coordinators of athletics, voted unanimously at that meeting not to allow athletic contests during the four- to five-day testing period.

"This testing is a major school change, and we just want to do our part to cooperate," said Ned Sparks, MPSSAA's executive director. "Our sports committees eventually will decide how to handle this. The spring playoffs might be moved up a week, or moved back a week or else scheduled entirely on weekends, possibly with doubleheaders.

"It will take ingenuity, but it can be done. The assessments will take precedence over everything. We do not want students to be worried about playing in a big game when they are taking these tests."

Ron Belinko, Baltimore County's coordinator of athletics for 23 schools and a member of the executive council, said he believes this is the opportunity to rearrange the entire sports calendar.

"With many schools opening in August now, it just makes sense to start practicing Aug. 1 and move the entire schedule forward so that we are finished with spring playoffs before these assessment tests are given.

"That would also eliminate conflicts with proms and graduations. I'm an advocate of taking a pro-active role and adjusting the athletic calendar to coincide with the academic calendar."

The state began pilot testing the assessment tests in January, and that raised concerns among principals about how much the school day was disrupted by them, Sparks said.

"They would not want to have students asking to get out of school early to go to a playoff game," he said.

Sparks said he intended to bring this topic up at the April 14 spring tournament meeting but that serious discussion would not begin until next fall.

The assessment exams will cover a range of basic courses and must be passed by each student before graduation.

They come under the umbrella of the Maryland Schools Performance Program and were an idea that began with the Sondheim Commission's report in 1989, reaching final approval by the State Board of Education in 1995.

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