Most schools undecided on state's offer

Option to skip MSPAP in 8th grade is weighed

March 06, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Most local school systems remained uncertain yesterday how to respond to the state's offer to discontinue eighth-grade MSPAP testing this spring, although some educators expressed concern about a change that transfers exam-grading responsibilities from certified Maryland teachers to an out-of-state firm's part-time scorers.

Only school officials in Montgomery County - whose superintendent and school board have led the chorus of criticism questioning the reliability of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program - have mentioned taking the state up on its offer of not testing eighth-graders this year while the annual middle school exam is reworked.

"Obviously, since our board has already passed a resolution asking that all MSPAP testing not be offered, I expect that our board would support not offering it to eighth-graders," said Montgomery school board President Reginald M. Felton, who will introduce a resolution at his board's meeting Tuesday to halt the eighth-grade assessments this year."

But superintendents and school board members in other Baltimore-area school systems, including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties, said yesterday that they have not decided whether to discontinue the eighth-grade exams.

Even educators in Carroll County, where the five-member school board last month followed in the footsteps of Montgomery County and asked state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to halt Maryland's elementary and middle school testing program while it is evaluated and improved, are uncertain how they will respond.

Baltimore City school officials did not return phones messages yesterday.

Grasmick announced several testing and curriculum changes Monday. She decided to make the eighth-grade MSPAP exam voluntary to allow state educators to begin restructuring the exam to produce individual test scores, as required by new federal legislation. She also said that the tests will be scored by employees of Measurement Inc. of Durham, N.C., instead of paying Maryland teachers to do the job over the summer.

Some educators who have complained of technical and scoring errors in last year's MSPAP tests worry that giving a testing firm the job of scoring the exam will only exacerbate problems that remain.

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