Updated 12 noon 9/28/22
Recently, the Maryland State Department of Education notified the public that they would not be releasing the Spring 2022 Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program scores in Reading and Math until January of 2023. Here is the official statement or rationale for this delay:
Here’s a response to a Public Information Act requesting these scores:
In the past, state testing was in the Spring of the year and then those scores would be released to the systems in the late Summer/ Early Fall to help guide instruction for the current school year. The thought was that this would allow systems to change curriculum, groupings, remediation, etc. to shore up weak areas or to help populations who did not do well.
But not this year. For some strange reason (and the excuses listed above), the scores had to be held until January. This means that locals will get the data in January, will spend weeks analyzing it for group performance and then weeks identifying and analyzing individual results for strengths and weaknesses. Now we will be up to the end of January before a plan can be created and implemented. This will leave one to two months for locals to implement the plan before the next round of testing must start.
It’s also strange that all the standard setting, item evaluation, cut scores, etc. could not be completed by the end of summer. Was that because of incompetence or by design to avoid releasing terrible scores? Even when the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program was in place. scoring didn’t take that long. And those were tests that had a heavy essay and short answer component.
Some school systems, including Talbot, will be filling the gap by conducting local norm referenced tests throughout the year to assess where the kids are since state test scores are not available.
If that’s the case why should anyone care if state scores aren’t released?
There are a couple of reasons.
One is because school standardized and state testing is BIG business and a huge expense for taxpayers both in dollars and staff/student time away from academics.
There are several main testing companies that control the school assessment market in the United States and other parts of the world. These companies are raking in the dollars for testing provided in all grade levels throughout this country and the world.
One of the biggest moneymakers is Pearson who made $762 million in profits in 2018. Their revenues were $5.511 billion. Add to that the $89 million dollars revenue from Pearson’s ownership of Penguin Random House Publishers, a major world textbook publishing company and you have a sweet deal. If a company owns the testing and the textbook, they have both ends of the educate/assess process sewn up.
And their CEO has a ten million dollar pay package, an apartment in New York City, and Pearson stock valued at around $9.3 million. He has no education background.
Pearson’s main competitor, Educational Testing Services, or ETS, had revenues of $2.1 billion in 2018. They are a non-profit. As is College Board that had $1.068 billion in revenue in 2017. Both of their CEO’s make almost a million dollars a year.
There’s a lot of money in school testing. None of it goes to teachers or to help children learn. It’s a big ATM called the “educational testing complex.” The staff hired to coordinate testing, train staff in testing, monitor testing in districts is an expense that takes away from classroom funds. Not only does testing take away from funds, but hours of teacher, administrator, and student time as well. Time that could be spent on instruction. (Credit: Now’s the Time to Get Rid of Standardized Tests | Eclectablog by Mitchell Robinson)
And Forbes predicts that these test publishers will profit big from the pandemic “learning loss.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/akilbello/2021/04/07/how-test-publishers-are-poised-to-profit-from-pandemic-learning-loss/?sh=bf25ce050c4b
Imagine if they make money off a test that accomplished nothing? This is a huge waste of taxpayer funds. Yet, citizens are told that these tests are vital to the improvement of our schools. Apparently not that vital.
Take the money out of the equation and consider this; we are coming off what has been called the biggest disruption to our children’s education, the pandemic. In fact, recent National Assessment of Education Progress scores show that student scores in reading had the biggest drop in thirty years. Math scores fell for the first time ever. And for those concerned about minority achievement, minority students suffered the most drastic losses. Whatever gains might have been made in two decades have been wiped out.
Certainly, this should be a time when educators should be on a fast track to analyze and address student achievement. Tom Kane, an economist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, agreed that NAEP scores definitively affirmed what prior studies have already demonstrated. He compared classroom learning to an industrial process – the conveyor belt slowed in 2020 and 2021. “What we learned …is the conveyor belt is back on, but at the same old speed. Somehow, we’ve got to figure out how to help students learn even more per year in the next few years or these losses will become permanent. And that will be a tragedy.”
It seems that the Maryland State Department of Education isn’t in any hurry.
Why is that?
Maryland is currently staring at what one Superintendent called “a big rock to lift.” That rock is the Maryland Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, legislation that has been delayed for two years and that will cost Maryland taxpayers $3.8 billion dollars a year for the next ten years. (Source: MSDE). This is ABOVE current education formulas and projections. The legislation will expand state control over local education systems and will force taxpayers in various jurisdictions to fund all the expensive bells and whistles of the Blueprint, even if those additions don’t work, fit what the local taxpayer wants or what children need. Many counties will struggle to meet these demands and will have to raise local taxes by an average of approximately 30%. Some counties will suffer even more devastating increases:
If the State can’t get test scores out in a timely fashion, can we trust them with BILLIONS more in funding?
With all of this money wrapped up in the Blueprint, one would think that MSDE, the State Board, and Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury would want these scores out there to set a baseline, even if it is low. Choudhury has already been quoted as saying these scores are dismal. We have only one way to go and that is up. So why the big deal?
The big deal is that an election is coming up. A set of bad test scores would not bode well for politicians up for election in this Democrat controlled state. Democrat candidates like Wes Moore, running for Governor, who has released positions on education that support the current system and the Blueprint will look foolish:
These scores discount his idea that the Blueprint has “set Maryland on a path to future success.” People may wonder if Moore has a clear picture of what is really going on in the schools. The scores put him in direct opposition to Dan Cox, Republican Gubernatorial Candidate who advocates for more choices for parents outside the public school system as well as parental rights. Cox knows what many parents know, our schools are failing. Bad scores will only highlight Cox’s plan for real educational reform as a better way to go.
Let’s not forget that other politicians in this State, including current Governor Larry Hogan, have been in charge of this educational system throughout the last two years at a minimum. Hogan has been in charge for almost 8. In his case, it was his lockdown order that took kids out of school for at least one year if not more. Hogan envisions a run for President, so this kind of bad test data will stick with him. It could drive his low support levels even lower.
The people who shoulder the biggest blames are the Democrats of Maryland who threw more money at failing school systems like Baltimore City which just today announced they are “missing” 1300 students:
This is a system that scores in single digits on test scores during good years. Is the State concealing scores below those levels?
Bad test scores before election day will not be good news for Democrats. It will not be good news for the Teachers Unions who support everything but teaching academics. People are waking up to the fact that schools are not doing their job, and these groups want to hide that for as long as they can.
What they hope is that when the scores eventually come out and the election is over, everyone will forget the scores and wait for the next set. The State will soften the fact that students are failing with four new levels for test scores: “Distinguished Learner, Proficient Learner, Developing Learner, and Beginning Learner.” Talk about putting lipstick on a pig! If you are in the lowest quartile, you’re sweetly called a “Beginning Learner.” In other words, you have no academic skill. Wow. If you are in the lower half, you are “Developing.” It’s the same theory as redefining the word “recession” to something more palatable. “Don’t worry Ms. Jones, your child is just “beginning.”
What they don’t realize is that everyone sees through their slow walking of the scores to the public. We see their lies about why. And we aren’t going to excuse them from shirking their duties and facing the realities of what they have done to our children.
As Thomas Kane says: “A friend of mine sent me a political ad for one of the gubernatorial candidates in Rhode Island, Helena Foulkes. She says, ‘I’m running for governor, and my top priority is restoring students’ achievement, and if I fail to restore achievement, I’m not going to run for reelection. Hold me accountable for whether we catch kids up.’ “
” I would hope more politicians take that pledge, and that the way to judge mayors and school board members and governors over the next couple of years is on whether they succeed in restoring students to their pre-pandemic levels of achievement. It would be that kind of accountability that would wake people up to the need for more aggressive action now. It’s one thing to read these reports about achievement losses nationally, but it’s another thing to see that your own schools, locally, followed exactly the pattern of this report. “
In Maryland, it appears our school leaders don’t want to see and share the report. You can’t defeat what you don’t acknowledge.
But it appears that is not the point.
**** Since writing this blog, I found out that Maryland, like many other states, switched test vendors a few years ago. Pearson became the company adopted by most. Pearson is heavily involved in global education and is a partner with the World Economic Forum. They are based out of England.