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Legislation that would change how educators can assess kindergarten students has passed both chambers. (File photo)

Standardized testing, Kindergarten assessment bills pass

ANNAPOLIS — Several education bills, which would limit the amount of standardized testing in public schools during the academic year, and give assessments to only a sample of kindergarten students, passed unanimously in the past week in both chambers of the legislature.

Delegate Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery is the sponsor of a House bill that would limit the time for standardized testing in public schools to 2 percent of the minimum required amount of instructional hours.

Since state law states that public schools must be open for at least 1,080 hours per school year at elementary and middle schools and 1,170 in high schools, the bill, which passed unanimously on Monday, would cap testing at just over 20 hours per school year.

Luedtke, who has also been a middle school teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools since 2004, said that even though state and federally mandated testing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it shouldn’t drive students away from needed classroom instruction.

Maryland State Education Association President Betty Weller, in a statement released on Monday, said that educators were thrilled to see legislators listen to their calls for placing a cap on testing.

“The emails, phone calls, lobby meetings and social media posts by thousands and thousands of hard-working educators have put this issue squarely on the legislature’s agenda,” Weller said.

A lot of the discussion about reducing the amount of standardized testing in Maryland has come from the PARCC exams — The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers — that are given to students from third to eighth grade and in high school.

The 2014-2015 school year was the first year of PARCC in Maryland, and educators and parents have been concerned about extensive test-prep time.

However, William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education,  said that the state Board of Education has not yet taken a position on Luedtke’s bill. The panel is asking for a decision on the bill to not be made during this legislative session and instead wait until the Board’s Commission on Assessments completes its own review this summer.

Reinhard said that the General Assembly in a previous legislative session required that there would be a new commission, made up of superintendents and members of the General Assembly, to review standardized tests throughout the state.

Meanwhile, a pair of bills in the House and Senate that would change the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, where students are evaluated at the beginning of the school year on language and literacy skills, academic knowledge, physical development, and social development, were also unanimously passed in both chambers, on March 18.

Currently, all students coming into kindergarten have a one-on-one exam with their teacher. However, the bill will allow the Maryland State Department of Education to work with local school systems to select a representative sample of kindergartners within those school systems to take the exam.

Maryland State Education Association Press Secretary and Policy Research Specialist Steven Hershkowitz said that selecting a sample of kindergartners to take the exam instead of entire classrooms would cause less of a disruption to kindergartners still acclimating to their new class environment.

“Right now, it takes typically 45 minutes per student. That doesn’t sound too bad. But because it’s one-on-one, you would have to add that up with the other students in the classroom,” Hershkowitz said, “And because a teacher is the only one who can administer these tests, the students aren’t getting the education they need.”