Maryland has elected not to take part in a series of 12th grade tests on the National Assessment of Educational Progress next year—the first time, federal officials say, that a state has opted out of an entire set of NAEP exams at that level.
State officials are worried about burdening students with an increasing number of mandatory exams, Maryland’s top testing administrator said, so forgoing participation in the voluntary 12th grade NAEP makes sense.
“We’re trying to take off the plate those things that are not critical,” said Gary Heath, the assistant state superintendent for accountability and assessment. The state is phasing in mandatory exams for graduation in several subjects, he said. When it comes to NAEP, school officials are “not excited about one more test,” Mr. Heath said.
NAEP’s backers have worried about maintaining interest and participation in the federally sponsored exam, as states and schools face increasing requirements to test under the No Child Left Behind Act. Federal officials interpret Maryland’s decision to mean that the state will not participate in testing in three subjects: U.S. history, civics, and economics in 12th grade, as well as voluntary 4th and 8th grade exams in U.S. history.
States must take part in NAEP in reading and mathematics at the 4th and 8th grade levels to be eligible for federal funding. Those tests allow for state-by-state comparisons of academic progress.
Maryland’s decision pertains to a separate, voluntary section of the assessment, known as the national NAEP. Only 40 states are expected to take part in the 2006 version, federal officials say.
Maryland officials worry about low participation and interest in the national NAEP among seniors, Mr. Heath said. The state’s future involvement in NAEP could depend on whether federal officials devise strategies to increase interest, he said, and thus ensure the test’s statistical validity.
Peggy G. Carr, an associate commissioner of the National Center for Educational Statistics, which administers NAEP, said other states had opted out of single, voluntary tests, but not an entire set of assessments, as Maryland has. She said the 2006 national test results would still be statistically valid without Maryland.
“It’s only a concern in that it may set a precedent for other states to follow,” Ms. Carr said. Without states’ participation, she said, the test could not “remain truly representative of the nation.”