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Five Things You Didn't Know about Maryland's State Assessments

Posted by David Moadel

Jun 16, 2015 1:24:00 PM


Common Core adoption has impacted Maryland much in the same way it has affected over 40 other states: tougher standards for students, and big changes for those who look after them. After adopting the CCSS in 2010, state-specific standards, known as the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards (MCCRS), were formulated in compliance with the CCSS.  

In concert with this, Maryland devised the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) with an eye toward fair, rigorous, and accurate measurement of progress for all K-12 public school students.  However, the era of MSA testing was short-lived and is coming to a close as new assessments in alignment with the MCCRS are preparing for rollout. 

Working closely with the Maryland State Department of Education, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) created a suite of standardized tests for Maryland's students. The 2014-2015 school year saw the full rollout of the PARCC tests in Maryland, and the state is now full steam ahead with its latest battery of student assessments.  

What do parents, students, teachers and administrators need to know about these tests? The five facts below might give you a bit of insight, along with a few surprises.

1. Maryland is a governing state in the PARCC Consortium.

Although PARCC tests have been developed for a number of states, Maryland itself took an active part in developing the assessments. As a governing state in the PARCC consortium, Maryland has worked with over a dozen states in developing these assessments. All of the test items were developed in alignment with the CCSS.

2. Computer-based item types and new testing modalities.

The transition from MSA to PARCC entails a broader array of testing modalities. Maryland's PARCC exams include "a mix of constructed response items, performance-based tasks, and computer-enhanced items," thereby facilitating deeper and more meaningful evaluation of student understanding and ability.

Check out LearnBop’s brand new Technology Enhanced Items (TEI) to see what the PARCC's new computer-based item types will look like. Teachers can use these new items right now in the classroom to model mathematical thinking!


3. The PARCC and the MSA have fundamental differences.


Although there may be some perceived similarities between PARCC and MSA, closer examination will reveal that the new tests do not fundamentally resemble the old ones. For example, PARCC scores are not comparable with the old MSA scores.  In fact, PARCC tests "look at different content and use an entirely new grading system" in relation to MSA exams.

4. Computer-based assessments.


With adoption of the new PARCC tests, Maryland made a firm commitment to computer-based assessment (though exceptions have been permitted for schools not currently equipped to handle the required technology). The rationale is straightforward and cogent: digitally enhanced assessments "are more efficient, innovative, and engaging—and they enable teachers and parents to better monitor student progress at multiple points."  

While the PARCC will continue to be computer-based, paper-and-pencil PARCC assessments "will be available for at least three years during the transition to online testing, and will be available for special needs beyond the transition."

5. Some changes for students with disabilities.

Parents of students with disabilities may see some changes in testing accommodations. Accessibility features and accommodations will, as expected, continue to exist with PARCC, but the specifics (for example, in regard to the use of calculators, text-to-speech, or word prediction) may be altered for some students. For clarification, parents might be advised to check student IEPs and/or 504 Plans and speak to a site-based school representative.

We hope this article was informative, and that you learned something you didn't know before. We'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Do your students need help learning math? Schedule a demo now to see how LearnBop can help.

About the Author


David Moadel is in his third decade working in education.  He has taught, mentored, and inspired students from elementary age through adult.  David has earned his master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education, and is currently a certified teacher in Florida.  David enjoys teaching, writing, and utilizing technology tools to communicate with people with diverse viewpoints across the globe.


Topics: Implementing the Common Core, Resources, State News

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