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Commission recommends nixing middle school social studies test

Flickr, via Creative Commons

A state commission charged with determining whether Maryland students spend too much time taking standardized tests issued a final report today. Among the recommendations was a suggestion that local jurisdictions examine their own required tests.

State leaders formed the commission amid questions about what might be too much testing.

In its final report, though, the commission said it’s not that simple.

For example, classrooms aren’t just disrupted by testing itself. They are also disrupted when teachers leave to administer other classes’ tests, leaving their own classes without an instructor. The commission recommended fixing this by broadening who can administer tests.

Every test exists for a reason, said Andy Smarick, a partner at the think tank Bellwether Education Partners who sat on the state’s commission.

“If you get rid of a high school government exam, you’re saying something about the importance of government to what we think a high school diploma should reflect,” he said.

The commission suggested local jurisdictions form commissions to examine their own assessments.

Maryland State Education Association President Betty Weller praised that recommendation, as well as one that the state not create a new middle school social studies test, as is required under a 2012 state law.

“So there’s one test right there that’s being eliminated, and this is all about eliminating excessive testing,” she said.

The commission also recommended reconfiguring the high school government assessment to make it less disruptive to classrooms.

The State Board of Education is expected to review the findings before making its recommendations to the governor and General Assembly this fall.  

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye