A standardized test. (iStock)

Standardized tests planned for the spring in Maryland have been scaled back and pushed until the fall, as part of changes adopted Thursday by the state board of education.

The move came shortly after state officials had approved the spring assessments, following a decision by federal officials not to waive federal testing requirements.

Under the new plan, math tests will be whittled down to 80 minutes, from roughly 160 minutes, and English exams will be 140 minutes, down from about 280 minutes. The reductions followed earlier decreases in testing time.

“I think we have found what I am calling an elegant solution,” State Superintendent Karen B. Salmon told board members.

Salmon said state officials realized there was more flexibility than they thought in federal requirements. Maryland officials also were struggling to plan for the administration of the tests, given that so many Maryland students are doing virtual or hybrid learning, she said.

Standardized tests are a go, but Maryland scales them back amid pandemic

Students in third grade to eighth grade and high school will now be given diagnostic tests in math and English once intended for the fall of 2020 — a kind of abbreviated version of the state’s standardized tests, called MCAPs, for Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program.

That fall testing — once intended to assess where students stood after the pandemic-driven school closures of the spring — was put off as the health crisis persisted.

Under the new plan, Salmon said, “we believe we’ll still provide data to school systems that we look at across the state and that we can do it to assess how students have been doing on our grade-level content standards that are required,” Salmon said.

There will be a 48-hour turnaround in machine-scored results so teachers can see how students are performing, and the move would avoid disruption to instruction this spring, she said.

The state board voted 12 to 1, with board member Rachel McCusker opposed and the board chairman absent.

McCusker, who works as a teacher, called the plan “the best that we can do,” given federal guidance, but raised the possibility that federal officials could at some point offer more waivers, and that in the fall “we may still have students learning at home and learning online rather than learning instead of in the building, which again raises all of these issues we have with test security and how we administer testing.”

She said that “any idea of testing right now is unpalatable to our community.”

Salmon said she did not expect to see more changes in federal guidance and argued that Maryland needs a statewide assessment to understand how students are doing.

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