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April 26, 2015

MCPS to consider testing cuts

by James Sleigh, Online Sports Editor
On March 30, the President of the Montgomery County Public Schools' (MCPS) Board of Education, Patricia O'Neill wrote an open letter to students, parents and teachers regarding the amount of testing occurring during the 2014-2015 school year. Due to the volume of testing and the high failure rates on certain math exams, O'Neill called for MCPS interim Superintendent Larry Bowers to consider dropping some final exams.

The new PARCC exams, which are taken entirely on computers, replace the High School Assessment (HSA) tests, and are generally more rigorous and complex. O'Neill questioned whether it was necessary to retake the same subject tests that had previously been tested in the PARCC exams. "Does it make sense for us to give a countywide final exam in the same high school subject where we give a PARCC test? And are we losing too much instructional time in the name of testing?" she said.

O'Neill said that she still supports the PARCC exams because they are important to measure a student and ensures that the school is held accountable. "Standardized testing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It holds school systems accountable for educating every child and, ultimately, we know that what gets measured, gets done," she said.

In a memo sent on March 24 to Bowers, O'Neill asked Bowers to consider exempting students because of the test load. Final exams are to be administered in the same courses that the PARCC exam covers, including Algebra, Algebra 2 and English 10. According to O'Neill the PARCC and HSA exams would qualify as adequate tests of the knowledge of a student.

On March 6 Lillian Lowery, Maryland Superintendent of Schools, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about Maryland's testing policies. Lowery also questioned the merits of over testing students. "We want all schools to use their instructional time wisely," she said. "Therefore, we have asked local school officials to identify opportunities to potentially reduce the number of tests given and eliminate any tests that seem redundant."

Bowers would not accept O'Neill's request for temporarily exempting students from final exams, but he said that MCPS officials would consider changes when they review the grading policy for the county later this year. O'Neill said that Board members would consider the exam cuts at a later meeting."We are planning to consider the weight of final exams, as well as whether passing final exams are necessary for course credit," she wrote in the memo. "In addition, Board members were of the opinion that a comprehensive review of all our local assessments should be undertaken."

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  • sigh, english 10 on May 26, 2015 at 10:47 AM
    I just think it's ridiculous that we're required to take two PARCCs (>8 hours of testing) and still sit for a final exam - especially with all those tests so close together (March, late April, early June). Honestly, I don't see the point in having more than 3 hours/year of English testing, tops.
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