Issues 2016: Education Assessments

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Education Assessments
Senate Bill 407/House Bill 141, Senate Bill 794/House Bill 657
House Bill 633, Senate Bill 787/House Bill 1427:

SUPPORT

With the Federal government’s passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state and local governments have been given more leeway to decide how they want to look at student achievement, as well as assess the effectiveness of schools and teachers.

Some very good ways to start undoing the harm of the test-and-punish model from the years of No Child Left Behind are with bills that either cap or even roll back the large amount of standardized tests that actually get in the way of a student’s education. SB 407/HB 141 would place a cap on the amount of total class time that can be spent taking a state or locally mandated standardized test. Teachers report throughout Baltimore City that the incredible amount of standardized tests pushes other subjects, like music and the arts, and even library time, to the periphery. Capping the amount of time spent on standardized tests will help students reclaim their education.

Another bill, SB 794/HB 657, will scale back the number of standardized tests we give the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students in Maryland. Many legislators and parents are shocked to learn that yes, in Maryland, we require all kindergarten students to take these high-stakes assessments every year. Few teachers in Baltimore City are given the results of these tests in a timely manner to get a sense of how well their students are grasping the material. In effect, by testing these children at such an early level in their development, we are not instilling a love of learning. Rather, we are eliminating the key components of that love of learning—a sense of wonderment and curiosity to find out how the world works—and instead equating education with a standardized test. SB 794/HB 657 would change that by making kindergarten assessments limited to a random sampling, and eliminating pre-kindergarten assessments completely.

Finally, two other bills would bring the viewpoints and experiences of teachers and education professionals into the design and implementation of assessments. HB 633 would make educational employee evaluations, including assessments, a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. SB 787/HB 1427 would require the Maryland State Department of Education apply for a waiver on some federally mandated tests by creating an alternative assessment pilot program. This pilot program, shown to be successful in states like New York and New Hampshire, allows teachers and other education professionals to come up with new, evidence-based methods for measuring student success across district and state levels. These new methods, called “performance assessments,” grow directly from the curriculum and serve as an extension of the learning process.

AFT-Maryland strongly supports these bills—
SB 407/HB 141, SB 794/HB 657, HB 633, SB 787/HB 142—
that would scale back the amount of standardized tests conducted in our public schools and give our children a chance really to grow by simply letting teachers teach.

 

AFT-Maryland Legislative Issues 2016
For more information, contact Terence Cooper, Director of Legislative Affairs, AFT-Maryland, tcooper@aftmd.org, or Todd Reynolds, Political Coordinator, treynolds@aftmd.org.