What if instead of spending our time and energy being adversarial, we instead spent our time being collaborative? We all agree there is too much testing and not enough local control. Maybe it’s time to take a different tactic and forge a new path.

What is being left out of this conversation are changes in federal education policy that just occurred with the Every Student Succeeds Act. There are no longer any punitive consequences for districts or schools as there once were under No Child Left Behind; the only mandate is that all children grades three to eight and once in high school be tested in English or math. What if students in high school had the option of taking the PSAT, SAT or AP test and having that count as their high school assessment?

What is also being left out of the conversation is that the state can design its own test and choose what time of the year to administer it. What if Frederick County Public Schools designed its own tests that met the state guidelines? What if we simply allow panels of experts and teachers design the state tests for each grade level? What if those tests were administered at the beginning of the year instead of later in the year?

What if those tests were then actually useful tools for our classroom teachers in terms of assessing where their students were so as to allow them to better refine where to begin with instruction at the beginning of the school year?

What if those test scores were released to parents so that they knew best where to support their child in their learning over the course of the school year?

What if the test were actually an informative tool for teachers, students and parents, and not just some global score for the school, the district and the state?

What if we stopped teaching to the test, and started teaching from the test, from the point where students are in terms of the knowledge they enter the school year with?

Lastly, what if special education teachers designed various tests for differing levels of special-needs students so that instruction could be better designed by the teacher to meet those students’ needs? What if that test already met the standards to be the annual assessment in special education? What if that test already existed? Check here: www.edweek.org/media/nweamyths-blog.pdf.

We’re fighting a losing battle with the State Board of Education and wasting time on our children’s educational clock, when maybe all we need to do is agree to go on a different path that actually gives all of us useful information in a more timely manner that can actually be used to benefit instruction for their coming school year for all our children.

Valerie Dale

New Market

(9) comments


Never happen. The Ruling Class has to much at stake and to much invested in keeping people fighting


Excellent editorial Val! Interestingly enough Montgomery County has worked for years on content specific county test. As a seasoned MCPS High School teacher , I believe these county test are superior to the HSA and PARCC. They are designed by content specific teachers for MCPS students, based on a curriculum geared to help students be successful in college and/or in life after high school. The test are by no means perfect, but they are re-evaluated on a yearly basis. MCPS tried to get an exception from PARCC and the state sad No! Sadly, MCPS is still using many of these test, and giving the HSA, and PARCC, which means students are being severely over tested. Personally, I believe Common Core is a step backwards for Maryland. We have better schools than most of the country. The only reason we opted into Common Core was because the Feds were giving out money, and we wanted that money. It was a bad decision and we need to find a way out.


So, you are trying to add more testing?? Looks like I am in the minority here, but to me this looks like such a waste of time and resources.


I'm trying to condense three things and actually have fewer tests that are more meaningful to teachers, students, and parents.
1. At the HS level the idea would be to allow the PSAT/SAT/AP to be the HS test - many students takes one of those tests anyway, so that test would substitute in for the HS test, thereby eliminating one test for HS students.
2. At the other grade levels, the number of tests required by the state, one in math and one in English would remain the same, but if designed by Frederick for the curriculum to be taught and given in the beginning of the year, would actually have important information for the teacher and the parents on teaching and learning for the upcoming year. You would be teaching FROM a starting point learned from the test, rather than having a test at the end of the year driving the curriculum.
3. KRAs should be eliminated entirely in my opinion - and the GA took a half step in that direction this year by making it a random test.

In Special Education, there clearly needs to be some common sense brought to the table. Some children sadly have such little or no capacity to take a test that we need to design 'a test' that allows for that child to have met the test taking, but at their own level, as developed by experts in the field.

I don't have all the answers, but I do know we can be creative and collaborative and find ways to make testing more meaningful for everyone involved...especially for our students and teachers. :-)

Lastly, I do believe the way to accomplish this is through our legislators and that FCTA along with MSEA led the charge to cap testing to something like 2% of the time a child spends in school. They were successful in the KRA half step. I hope everyone will support their efforts in the next session, especially our candidates for the BOE and our current members.

It would be interesting to see who among them signed or supported the petitions/email drives/went to Annapolis,/or wrote our legislators on this topic.


Valerie, what if? Because what you are proposing make too much common sence, unfortunately. Common Sence. Something we no longer teach in our schools, possibly?

Rick Blatchford

What if Valerie Dale were the state superintendent of schools?? You go, girl!! Three cents asks how would we compare FCPS to other counties. Answer? The job of education is to educate, not to get higher scores than the next county. This type thinking, in large part, is exactly what has caused the situation in which we find ourselves today. I'll bet three cents advocates for diversity. Standardization is antithetical to diversity. Additionally, standardization inhibits or destroys autonomy.


Rick, I have to give that one to you. Very good.


But how does one measure if you are successfully educating?


Why would you want Frederick to have it's own standardized tests? If we did that then how would we validate those tests, and how would we be able to compare FCPS to other school systems in MD and elsewhere? Sounds to me like a huge waste of resources to attempt that.

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