Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Wednesday that he thinks that students are over-tested, a growing criticism among teachers, parents and students across the country.
How often, and when, students are given standardized tests are the subjects of two pieces of legislation being considered in the General Assembly.
One measure would put a halt to the state’s new Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, a computer-based test that was administered for the first time last fall. Teachers say it costs them valuable instructional time to administer and offers too little data to improve teaching and learning.
The other bill would create a commission to review how many standardized tests students across the state are required to take.
The bills — both of which are supported by the teachers union — were the focus of hearings before a Senate committee on Wednesday.
Hogan, who did not go as far as to offer his support for the bills, made his comments after an event promoting a bill that would provide tax credits to businesses that help fund private and public school scholarships. He said he has concerns about the number of standardized tests children are given — and had discussed the issue with a group of other governors during a recent meeting at the White House.
“We were saying, ‘Look, we want to come up with general standards, but let’s figure out one test instead of constantly changing the test and teaching to the test,’ ” Hogan said. “Kids aren’t really getting a good education that way.”
Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County) said the moratorium bill would place a two-year halt to all testing for students in kindergarten through second grade. Currently, the only test given to those students is the new assessment for kindergartners. The bill would prohibit any other test for K-2 students and would provide time for the Department of Education to modify the existing test.
“We need to get it right before we move forward,” Jennings said.
States are increasingly using tests to measure kindergartners’ knowledge in such areas as letters, sounds, syllables and number recognition, assessing the needs of the nation’s youngest students as they move into the school system. Maryland has done so for the past 10 years. But this school year, the test was revamped to align with the Common Core standards, a new national set of academic guidelines.
Del. Eric Ebersole (D-Howard), a veteran teacher and the sponsor of the bill to study how much testing goes on in the state’s schools, said Maryland has “a problem with testing.” He said testing has created a “teach-the-test culture” that “discourages learning and encourages memorization.”
“Students have fewer hours to learn and teachers have fewer hours to teach,” he said.
Ebersole’s bill would create a 19-member task force that would review “the purpose” of all local, state and federal mandated assessments and develop a statewide approach to administering assessments.
In addition to his comments about testing overall, Hogan reiterated a position he held during his campaign about the PARCC test, a college readiness test which is aligned with Common Core.
“We want to make sure that we got it right,” the governor said of PARCC. “We might push the pause button on it.”
Hogan said he has not focused on the new test because “we’ve been so busy with other things” — primarily budget issues.
The governor said he does not know when he might make a decision on the test’s future.
“It is something that we are going to give serious consideration to and get all the input we can,” Hogan said.