Standardized Testing No More…For Now

At the start of March, students across Maryland received yet another break as a result of the gripping COVID-19 pandemic. Regional news site Maryland Matters reported that on March 4th, the Board of Education (BOE) had voted to postpone all standardized testing until the start of the next school year in the fall. Only one board member opposed the decision, while another was absent.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique challenge for classroom instruction as most students have spent a significant portion of the 2020-2021 school year in remote learning,” Karen B. Salmon, Superintendent of the Maryland BOE, wrote in a memo to schools across Maryland. “To assist in minimizing the impact on the limited in-person instructional time in spring 2021, the MDSE is proposing to utilize the flexibility in the testing window as provided by the U.S. Department of Education.”

The BOE had originally planned to administer tests that lasted more than seven hours, but when they decided to settle on this proposition, that was scrapped. The tests that will be given in the fall of next school year are student diagnostic assessments to access students’ memories and will determine what they’ve retained since the pandemic. Salmon called the proposition an “elegant solution.”

Reaction towards the decision was pretty mixed. Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, felt the BOE made a wise decision to postpone all testing but insisted that they use federal waivers to shorten testing times. Bost also advised the BOE that students need more instructional time and less testing, and also a time to address the thoughts and feelings students felt during the time of virtual learning. Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City schools, also announced her support for the BOE’s decision, citing that the “once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic” sparked a lot of anxiety.

Meanwhile, George Arlotto, superintendent of Anne Arundel School System, told the Baltimore Sun that he was reluctant to carry the BOE’s testing plan, and felt that any type of testing should be done as soon as possible so it wouldn’t have a significant impact on instruction. Another school board member also felt it wouldn’t hurt to revisit the idea of testing in the summer once they had more data.

Some also felt testing during this time was unnecessary to begin with and that there were better alternatives to testing. According to Maryland Matters, Rachael McCusker, the teacher member of the board, and the single board member that voted against the decision, felt testing was “unpalatable” to Maryland schools at the moment, and also felt concerned that students might be learning from home even when the next school year starts. McCusker felt that schools should make up their own diagnostic testing, though Salmon felt it wouldn’t do much good for schools.

Maryland schools are currently in the process of slowly allowing students to return to school buildings. Besides the schedule and how school buildings will operate in response to the pandemic, it is currently unknown what other changes will come during the school year.

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