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MCPS Considering Ways to Lower Amount of Testing for Middle and High School Students

June 24, 2015

Students at Montgomery County middle and high schools may be tested less, which could allow more time for instruction. MCPS is considering changes to its assessment program to increase instructional time and reduce the time spent on testing.

   As part of MCPS’ review of its overall assessment program, options for possible changes to final exams given in middle and high school were discussed with the Montgomery County Board of Education’s Strategic Planning Committee earlier this week, on Monday, June 22 and will be presented to the full Board in July.

   The committee, which is comprised of BOE members Christopher Barclay, Judy Docca, and Jill Ortman-Fouse, presented the BOE with four options to lower test time and increase instructional time during the school year.

   MCPS said the options were developed in response to concerns expressed by the Board, students, staff, parents, and community members regarding the number of state and local tests given in MCPS and the amount of instructional time lost due to test preparation and administration.

   In March, Board President Patricia O’Neill and Board member Phil Kauffman, chair of the Policy Management Committee, sent a letter to Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers asking that the district consider changes to its testing program.

   Maryland State Superintendent Lillian Lowery has also asked all districts in the state to review their testing programs and the General Assembly has created a task force to research the testing load on public school students across the state.


   “Assessment is an important part of any instructional program, but we must make sure our tests are providing meaningful data and are not taking too much time away from instruction,” Bowers said. “We look forward to discussing these options with the Board at their July meeting and making thoughtful changes that will benefit our students.”

   “I am pleased that the district has developed these options that would ease the testing burden on our students while still embracing accountability,” BOE President Patricia O’Neill said. “I look forward to a robust discussion with staff and my Board colleagues.”

   Currently, middle and high schools are required to administer end-of-semester exams in many courses. These two-hour exams are given at the end of each semester, in January and June. MCPS has developed four options that would restore between two and four weeks of instruction during the school year and reduce the amount of testing while maintaining accountability measures for student performance. 

   The four options being considered to reduce the number of tests students take include;

   The first option, deemed Option A by the BOE, involves middle school students only. Starting with the 2015-2016 school year, a two-hour cumulative exam will not be given in middle school classes that do not qualify for high school credit. Marking period and/or unit assessments will be used instead. Middle school classes that do qualify for high school credit, such as Algebra 1 and Geometry, will follow the high school assessment protocols.

   The second option, Option B involves middle schools and high schools but only classes that have high school credit. In this option, no centrally developed, end-of-semester exams will be administered. This would start in the second semester of the 2015-2016 school year for courses that are assessed by the state (Algebra, Algebra 2, Biology, English 10, and Government) and other courses would follow in later years. Variations on this option would only eliminate the exams in subjects that are assessed by the state or would only eliminate the second semester exams in all courses.

   The third option, Option C, also involves middle and high school classes that have high school credit and would keep cumulative exams, but administer them over multiple class periods rather than two-hour blocks. If adopted, this would begin with the 2015-2016 school year.

   The final option, Option D, also involves middle and high school classes that have high school credit and would replace end-of-semester exams with centrally-developed, in-class assessments that are given at specific times throughout the school year. Examples of these types of assessments could be unit tests, essays, projects, portfolios, document-based questions, and more. This option would not be implemented until the 2016-2017 school year.

   Members of the public who wish to provide comments are asked to review the assessment options website and complete a short online comment form.

   All input should be provided no later than Friday, July 10, so that it can be reviewed prior to the Board’s discussion on Tuesday, July 14, 2015.

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