A petition started by a Montgomery County Public Schools teacher calling for the state not to administer the Maryland School Assessment tests this school year has gained hundreds of signatures from around the state.
Tiferet Ani, a social studies teacher in the Quince Orchard cluster, said that with the county — and state — implementing the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers test and no longer looking to the MSA tests to track student progress, she thinks it is a waste of time and resources to administer the annual test to elementary and middle school students this year.
PARCC, which aligns with the Common Core State Standards, will be fully implemented in the school system next school year.
As of Friday afternoon, about 400 people had signed the Moveon.org petition titled “Cancel the MSA.”
Ani, in her seventh year of teaching in the school system, said she has administered the test four times.
The test is administered over a two-week period during which teachers lose instructional time, Ani said.
Ani said she wants to see the state choose not to administer the test — which she said doesn’t match up with schools’ new curriculum based on Common Core — to save instructional time as well as taxpayer dollars.
She said she plans to deliver the petition to the school board on Nov. 12 and try to meet with Superintendent Joshua P. Starr face to face. She will also try to hand-deliver the petition to Annapolis, she said.
However, when asked if local districts have any flexibility on the matter, Maryland State Department of Education spokesman William Reinhard said, “They don’t have any.”
Maryland must continue to test students with the MSA this year based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which requires that certain students be tested each year on reading and math with the state-approved assessment, Reinhard said.
The state intends to follow the federal law, he said.
Reinhard said the test, while on its way out, will still provide important information about student subgroups.
“It is not a useless test,” he said. “It’s imperfect, but it’s important to continue testing students.”
Dana Tofig, a spokesman for the county school system, said Starr has said he is not sure if the test data will be useful when it comes to determining how students and schools are peforming.
“Dr. Starr has made it clear that he’s concerned about continuing to give the MSA when more and more of the test will not be aligned to the curriculum that we’re teaching” and the school’s work to implement Common Core, Tofig said.
The school system, however, will keep the test if the state requires it, he said.
State Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Dist. 14), who supports the petition, said while he understood the state’s position under federal law, he thinks the test is “meaningless” and “damaging” to students and the state has “a moral responsibility to say no.”
“Teachers and students and parents see the damage this is causing and they need to have a voice in the decisions that are being made in Annapolis,” Luedtke said.
The test doesn’t help school systems understand where students stand or properly judge the quality of teachers or schools, he said.
Even if the state education department doesn’t take up the issue with the federal government, Luedtke said, he thinks it would beneficial if the petition helps spark a “broader conversation” on how the state tests and the effect it has on students’ education.
“I think people who are deeply involved in the schools on a day-to-day basis are enraged by this,” he said. “I think the petition’s reflective of that.”