Maryland state education officials plan to seek a federal waiver to delay tying teachers’ evaluations to standardized test scores while they break in the new “Common Core” curriculum.
State School Superintendent Lillian Lowery told state school board members of her plans at a meeting Tuesday. She agreed with educators who say it is unfair to use scores on the existing Maryland School Assessment exams for evaluations when those tests don’t measure what is being taught under Common Core.
“The fact that our teachers and leaders at the school level know that they’re not going to be held to any kind of punitive measures this year as we’re going through this transition really has been of great benefit,” Lowery said.
Student MSA test scores dropped statewide last year when the Common Core was partially implemented. They are expected to decline again this year as well. Lowery said the waiver gives educators time to figure out a sound evaluation process under Common Core. The standardized tests for the more intense curriculum will not be in place until next year.
Lowery said she decided to seek the waiver after talks with the general public and a meeting with a group of superintendents, principals, teachers, and other staff and administrators. “We had a show of hands vote so we knew that we could document that we had unanimous consensus to move forward,” Lowery said. “So we’re all in accordance and hope to meet the deadline of putting in the application.”
Although the board was not required to, it voted to approve the waiver request. The application has to be filed with the U.S. Department of Education before Sept. 30.
Local officials praised the move. Shanaysha Sauls, Baltimore city’s school board chair, said the waiver will give officials more time to fine tune evaluation processes and student testing. “It allows for us to put testing in its proper place,” she said. “And so we’re freed up to see what does good testing look like, what does good learning look like without the weight or pressure of measures that may not be properly calibrated.”
David Stone, the city school board’s vice chair, questioned the usefulness of testing students with outdated exams. “We don’t want to give them meaningless tests and we don’t want to subject our teachers to conflicting goals in the classroom,” he said.
In addition to the waiver, Baltimore Teacher’s Union President Marietta English wants to halt standardized testing for at least a year. She said that will give teachers more time to adjust their classroom techniques to the Common Core requirements. “Let’s get the kinks out of it, let’s get some training, let’s give the teachers the tools they need to work with Common Core before we put penalties on the high stakes testing,” she said.
Local and state officials said they are optimistic that the federal waiver will be granted. A U.S. Department of Education spokesperson said they will process all applications as quickly as possible.