Board of Education asks State to Delay Graduation Requirement for New Tests

October 8, 2014
“This is a real issue that will impact the real lives of students.”

The Montgomery County Board of Education
sent a letter to the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools and the President of the Maryland State Board of Education asking them to delay the requirement that students pass new state high school exams in order to graduate.

New state tests in English language arts and mathematics will be given in all Maryland public schools this year, replacing the Maryland School Assessments (MSA). This includes new tests in Algebra 1 and English 10 that students will have to pass in order to graduate from high school. The new tests, developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and will be more rigorous than the previous state high school exams.

The Board of Education has supported the move to PARCC, but had previously raised concern about the transition and the impact it could have on students. Board President Philip Kauffman reiterated these concerns in a letter to State Superintendent Lillian Lowery and State Board of Education President Charlene Dukes and asked that the graduation requirement be delayed.  

“We believe it is time for you to take action and that a two-year delay in using PARCC as a graduation requirement is in the best interests of students,” Mr. Kauffman wrote in his letter. “Time is of the essence: this is a real issue that will impact the real lives of students.”

The state has indicated that the PARCC exams in high school will have two distinct scoring levels, or cut scores, for students—a lower score that will meet the graduation requirement and a higher one that will indicate college and career readiness. Mr. Kauffman raised a series of questions about the tiered cut scores.

“If a college-ready cut score differs from the graduation cut score, what is the most meaningful indicator for institutions of higher education or employers? What messages do tiered cut scores send to students?” Mr. Kauffman asked in his letter.

The letter also asked why the state felt it was appropriate to delay the use of PARCC for purposes of personnel evaluations, but did not think it was “equally appropriate to delay the use as a high stakes test for students.”

Mr. Kauffman asked Dr. Lowery and Dr. Dukes to delay the graduation requirement for PARCC and begin a broad conversations about how the new tests are used during a period of transition.

“It is time for an open, honest, and inclusive conversation among our state leaders and key education stakeholders about how Maryland should use the results of what all agree will be a significantly more rigorous assessment,” he wrote.

Letter to State Superintendent and Maryland State Board of Education President

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