MSPAP criticized during forum in Eldersburg

40 people attend event sponsored by lawmakers

January 27, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Most of the 40 people who attended a public forum on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program - or MSPAP - criticized the mandatory pupil testing, raising concerns about the lengthy testing, lack of individual scoring and secrecy surrounding the results.

Billed as a Maryland Education Summit, the forum at Century High School in Eldersburg included most members of Carroll's State House delegation, who sponsored the event.

A roster of educators and opponents of the program, which is designed to evaluate the education of elementary and middle school pupils, made up much of the group.

One woman complained to the organizers that the public turnout Thursday night would have been higher had parents known that the event was to listen to their concerns - not to promote the MSPAP.

New federal law and several state commission findings will mean changes, if not abolition of the assessment program, said several of the speakers, including Krista Kafer, senior education analyst for The Heritage Foundation.

"It is up to us to ensure that it is a positive thing," Kafer said of the changes, "by keeping an eye on our schools, by keeping an eye on the Maryland Department of Education."

"What parents really need to know about is [student] achievement," she said. "Can they put Afghanistan on a map? Do they know who George Washington is?"

The primary objections focused on the amount of time pupils spend preparing for the tests each year, the program's assessment of schools rather than of individual pupils and the secrecy of the results. It is given in third, fifth and eighth grades.

"If they interrupt instruction to take a test, my child should be tested as an individual," said Mary Pat Kahle, legislative chairman for the PTA Council of Baltimore County. "MSPAP has no individual value, and there's nothing they can do to make it. ... You can kill it. You can't change it."

Anna-Maria Halstad, recruitment coordinator for Carroll County public schools, and a parent and former teacher, said she came "expecting to be empowered, to understand more about what MSPAP is about. What I'm hearing is MSPAP is a horrible thing. I never felt that before."

The forum was the fourth in a series being held around the state under the guidance of Del. Janet Greenip, an Anne Arundel County Republican. She is a former seventh-grade mathematics teacher and a critic of the state assessment program.

"The people are so happy to have a forum. I always pray that we'll have enough," Greenip said. "They listen, then they go back and tell many, many, many other people."

She plans to hold future forums on the Eastern Shore, in southern Maryland and in Prince George's County.

On Thursday, the State Board of Education will visit Carroll for a question-and-answer session about statewide education issues. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Liberty High School in Eldersburg.

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