Why, after two and a half years of blogging, it’s practically a tradition! Yes, it’s time for my annual post (or two or three…) about the kick-off to the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) prep season. And this year brings a stunner. You can read for yourself:
I am very excited to share that beginning Tuesday, January 26, 2010 Eastern will implement a minor schedule modification. This modification is the addition of a daily 27 minute MSA practice session. This session will occur between 2nd and 3rd period each day. In order to dedicate this time each of the seven periods will be shortened from 49 to 45 minutes. We will return the original schedule at the conclusion of the MSA (March 22, 2010) .
The MSA practice time we be used as follows:
1 day each week of testing strategies.
2 days each week focused on the reading standards.
2 days each week focused on the math standards.
The MSA practice groupings were formed based on the students predicted MSA performance. Each group has been assigned a minimum of two staff coaches. Almost every adult in the building including teachers, counselors, administrators, secretaries, and building services staff have committed to working with students during this MSA practice time.
Eastern Middle School has administered two MSA practice tests (October and December). The data from the practices was analyzed to determine areas in need of additional support for each English class and each Math class. The MSA practice time will be used to provide structured practice on those cotent indicators that our students showed as areas in need of improvement.
Some of you may ask… my child is in advanced classes and does not need MSA prep — why do they have to do this? First, this is a whole-school initiative. Offering this preparation opportunity for some students and not for all conflicts with our philosophy that we are one school that provides equitable opportunities for all students. Second, the MSA focuses on grade level content. Our advanced students are working beyond their grade level and may have not practiced the tested skills for quite a while. All students will benefit from the structured content review — particularly in math.
Thank you in advance for your support of this MSA preparation plan.
Please feel free to contact me directly via email or 301-650-6650 if you have any questions or concerns.
Predictably–and justifiably, in my opinion–there have been howls of protest on the school’s listservs. As one parent commented “lumping all magnet students (for the purposes of a “whole-school” approach) into what is essentially remedial instruction for six weeks is completely inappropriate – and yet another symptom of what is going wrong with this program and this school.” Others chimed in that this much test prep is inappropriate for any child who is solidly “proficient” or “advanced.” Yet another posited that her child would get more benefit from an additional 27 minutes of sleep a day.
Bottom line: You can wrap it in all the “excited” and “opportunity” and “proud principal” you like, but it’s still a perfect illustration of the misguided, “one size fits all” approach on which MCPS is hell bent. Yikes. And sorry to go all “red zone” on you again, but I would guess that kids in Potomac aren’t losing 11 hours of instructional time in the coming weeks to prep for the MSAs (or are they??).
The principal responded…and just seemed to dig herself in deeper.
I do not disagree with any of the points that were made in these emails. The amount of energy and time that is dedicated to one single assessment – the MSA – can be extremely frustrating. It is the current state of public education in the US as mandated by NCLB that each state implement this type of test. The performance targets for these tests increase each year.
As you know, Eastern MS did not meet the targets for the 2009 MSA. It is my charge as principal to ensure that our instructional programs and MSA preparation and planning were reveiwed [sic] and modified in a effort to meet the 2010 targets. While some may feel that our the test preparations initiatives are not necessary for thier [sic] child I beleive [sic] that a whole school approach is appropriate for Eastern Middle School. The groupings and instructional strategies have been differentiated based on predicted MSA score and every effort will be made to make the time meaningful for every student.
I recognize that using any time for anything other than instruction may not be a desired state, however, there are activities, events, and opportunities that arise that require use of class time. These include guest speakers, field trips, required testing, and in this case MSA preparation.
There are students, humanities nad [sic] comprehensive, that have demonstrated advanced level academic ability. This being said I repeat that I beleive [sic] that a schoolwide MSA prep initiative is appropriate for EMS. Again, we are committed to making this MSA prep time beneficial for all. I ask this of you and your students…. give us two weeks to implement this plan. We will monitor the effectiveness carefully. If there is evidence after this two weeks that a test prep group has demonstrated advanced level abilities on the prep items then we will consider alternative use of this time for these students. Evidence will include performance data and student feedback.
A PTSA meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2.