Maryland gives students more time to learn, less time taking standardized tests


by Brian Washington

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Maryland educators are applauding new legislation that will dramatically reduce over-testing in the state. Last week, the Senate approved the More Learning, Less Testing Act. It was a unanimous, bi-partisan 47-0 vote. The bill saw a similar vote in the House of Delegates, where it was approved 139-0.

The More Learning, Less Testing Act limits mandated testing in elementary and middle schools to 2.2 percent of the school year—which amounts to about 23.8 hours. However, in the eighth grade, the percentage bumps up a little to 2.3 percent or 24.8 hours. Maryland’s high schools will only see 25.7 hours of testing.

The legislation definitely alters the state’s testing landscape for the better and will do just what its title implies—give students more time for learning and less time focused on standardized tests.

The General Assembly also recently approved the Protect Our Schools Act, which dials back the state’s heavy reliance on using test scores to judge a school’s success. Even though the bill was backed by educators, the Maryland PTA, and civil Rights groups, Governor Hogan used his veto to keep it from becoming law. However, the General Assembly overrode his veto.

Maryland educator and MSEA President Betty Weller

As of now, Hogan hasn’t publicly said if he’s going to sign the More Learning, Less Testing Act, but that’s not stopping educators, like Betty Weller, a middle school English/science teacher who is also president of the Maryland State Education Association, from praising lawmakers for taking such important steps.

Educators applaud legislative leaders in both parties for coming together to establish a commonsense safeguard against over-testing in our schools,” said Weller, who, as MSEA president, represents more than 73,000 educators statewide.

“This means our kids will have more time to learn important well-rounded skills, and our teachers can get back to why they went into the profession in the first place: inspiring their students to love learning.”

“Between the More Learning, Less Testing Act and the Protect Our Schools Act, the legislature has put Maryland schools in a position to show that our children are more than a test score. The overemphasis on testing has failed to close achievement gaps for the last two decades. It’s not enough to know that some students perform worse than others—we need to know why. Now Maryland is a national leader in refocusing time and resources on the kind of learning opportunities that truly help kids thrive in school.

According to the State Department of Education, the average Maryland student takes more than 200 standardized tests during his time in school, which amounts to about 250 hours taken away from instruction. The More Learning, Less Testing Act is expected to reduce standardized testing by 730 hours annually across 17 school districts.

Reader Comments

  1. As a parent, I have not been a fan of the overuse of standardized testing. At one of my kids’ schools, it totaled up to eight disrupted weeks of learning for testing. Between the state assessment, NWEA, prototype testing, etc. As someone making a career transition into teaching, I also see how the overuse of testing and common assessments eats into new learning and even review time.

    The one standardized test I do like – since they mostly have to take it anyway for college entrance (although some colleges are doing away with that) – is the use of PSAT and SATs as one measure in our state.

    The standardized testing model is not only taking away from new learning time, it stresses kids, teachers, and admins out, and is an expensive proposition for school districts, as they also have to pull in additional resources (proctors as well) and take time away from other responsibilities. It is a disconnect to have so much standardized testing in the grades leading up to college, when many colleges are doing away with similar tests as an admission qualification.

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