Superintendent Joshua Starr took the occasion to show a number of slides that graphically represented the academic achievement gap for students scoring at an advanced level on the Maryland School Assessments in Reading and Math. According to the Superintendent, the graphics showed that some schools had much smaller academic achievement gaps than at others.
The Maryland School Assessments are tests that the Superintendent has roundly criticized, calling for a three-year testing moratorium.
In February 2012, this column pointed to the fact that MCPS has acknowledged that the MSAs are tests of “questionable reliability or purpose.” It followed more than two-years over which this column has cast doubt on the value of MSAs as a useful metric for educational intervention (see here, here, here, here, etc.) The President of the Board of Education (BoE) at the time, Patricia O’Neill, and former Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, label the MSAs as “poorly constructed tests of questionable reliability or purpose.” In a presentation before the BoE, on September 27th, the Superintendent asserted that the MSA scores have a wiggle room of 20% to 25%.
There is little doubt that the MSAs are, as the school system has asserted, tests of “questionable reliability or purpose.” Notwithstanding this acknowledgement, the school system continues to use the metric as a decision making tool. Furthermore, the school system does have far more reliable metrics in the form of the NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) MAP (Measures of Academic Progress), which “are computerized adaptive assessment programs that provide teachers, students, and parents with an accurate assessment of students’ progress in mastering basic skills.” However, the system has been reticent in making these test results available to the public. This, despite the fact that the school system has expended considerable resources in linking MAP results with the academic success of students.
While school reform has focused on teachers, little if any, attention has been devoted to the quality of school administrators and their management of multi-billion dollar public school systems.