For years, public school teachers and parents have expressed their aversion for the amount of standardized testing. Maryland state lawmakers heard these complaints and created a commission to review testing policies. The commission created the More Learning, Less Testing Act, which limits mandated testing to 2.2 percent of the hours in a school year.
The legislation prompted the county to create its own program, Evidence of Learning, to readjust the policy and fit the requirement. The county removed the RQA from the required curriculum and substituted it with dispersed Progress Checks.
English Resource Teacher Michael Dickel describes the new Progress Checks as a part of a larger plan for educational policy changes. “The Progress Checks are part of a larger shift across MCPS in alignment with Dr. Smith’s vision as superintendent. The new framework encompasses a good deal more than the changes to English and math Progress Checks. This framework will impact all grade levels and most subject areas in some form or another. RQAs being renamed Progress Checks is only part of this larger reshaping under the Evidence of Learning framework,” Dickel said.
Individual departments have also been instructed to implement new policies. “There are centrally reported common tasks that the English teachers are responsible for reporting. For first quarter in 10th grade, for example, we need to send the county the scores on memoirs that students write. Then, during the second and third quarter, there are two-day tests. Then fourth quarter we have another centrally reported common task. The Progress Checks are only second and third quarter,” English Teacher Nicholas Hitchens said.
According to Math Resource teacher Keith Burnham, the new Progress Checks are identical to the RQA. “The county got rid of the Required Quarterly Assessments all across the board because the state has mandated that students are only allowed to have so much standardized testing per year. The RQA counted against that, so they had to look at how much they were mandating. Now, in terms of math itself, there has been no change. We are still required to do four quarterly assessments. They have just changed the name from Required Quarterly Assessments to Progress Checks,” Burnham said.
The Evidence of Learning program requires that most departments submit data for county-standardized test items like Progress Checks. However, world languages is not included. World languages Resource Teacher Anthony Derosa is still providing standardization in the curriculum to bring it to a similar level of testing of other courses. “During the summer, all the resource teachers came to a decision that comparative data standardization would be in place for world languages as well. A framework of ‘common tasks’ was drawn up. I will be implementing the suggested world language program even though it isn’t a formal part of the county’s Evidence of Learning framework,” Derosa said.
The state legislation was formulated to decrease the amount of time and attention necessary for the immense amount of standardized testing, and the effects of the new policy will be analyzed after the first Progress Check.