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Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is in the process of reviewing its assessment strategy across the district for all grades (kindergarten through Grade 12). The review is part of the district's efforts to increase instructional time and ensure assessments are providing valuable data that informs teaching and learning.
As part of that review, MCPS is considering changes to its assessment program, including final exams in secondary schools. Options for possible changes to final exams given in middle and high school were discussed with the Montgomery County Board of Education’s Strategic Planning Committee on Monday (June 22, 2015) and will be presented to the full Board in July.
The options were developed in response to concerns expressed by the Board, students, staff, parents, and community members regarding the number of state and local tests given in MCPS and the amount of instructional time lost due to test preparation and administration.
In March, Board President Patricia O’Neill and Board Member Phil Kauffman, chairman of the Policy Management Committee, sent a letter to Interim Superintendent Larry A. Bowers asking that the district consider changes to its testing program. Maryland State Superintendent Lillian Lowery has also asked all districts in the state to review their testing programs and the General Assembly has created a task force to research the testing load on public school students across the state.
Currently, middle and high schools are required to administer end-of-semester exams at the end of many courses. These two-hour exams are given at the end of each semester, in January and June. MCPS has developed four options that would restore between two and four weeks of instruction during the school year and reduce the amount of testing while maintaining accountability measures for student performance. .
Starting with the 2015-2016 school year, a two-hour cumulative exam will not be given in middle school classes that do not qualify for high school credit. Marking period and/or unit assessments will be used instead. Middle school classes that do qualify for high school credit, such as Algebra 1 and Geometry, will follow the high school assessment protocols.
No centrally developed, end-of-semester exams will be administered. This would start in the second semester of the 2015-2016 school year for courses that are assessed by the state (Algebra, Algebra 2, Biology, English 10, and Government) and other courses would follow in later years. Variations on this option would only eliminate the exams in subjects that are assessed by the state or would only eliminate the second semester exams in all courses.
Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, keep cumulative exams, but administer them over multiple class periods rather than two-hour blocks as currently done.
Beginning in 2016-2017, replace end-of-semester exams with centrally-developed in-class assessments, such as common tasks, unit tests, and/or portfolio assessments that are given at specific times throughout the school year. Examples of these kinds of assessments could be unit tests, essays, projects, portfolios, document-based questions, etc.
The Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs has engaged numerous stakeholders ranging from teachers and principals to parents. Feedback has already been received on these options from focus groups representing a broad array of staff, students, parents, and community members, including:
Members of the public who wish to provide their comments are asked to review the documents available on the MCPS website and complete a short online comment form. All input should be provided no later than Friday, July 10, 2015 so that it can be reviewed prior to the Board’s discussion on Tuesday, July 14, 2015.