Test Sneak Peeks No More in Maryland

State ends policy of allowing teachers to see assessments ahead of time

By John Wist
|  Saturday, Jul 24, 2010  |  Updated 11:31 AM EDT
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Test Sneak Peeks No More in Maryland

The mayor and the schools chancellor hail the big gains on state math tests this year in the city's public schools, but the chancellor of the Board of Regents has strong reason to be cautious.

Standardized tests are incredibly important because they determine in part a school’s standing in the state as well as its funding. And until now, teachers in Maryland were allowed to get a first look at the tests before they administered them.

Citing test security, Maryland Education officials announced Friday that they would no longer let teachers see the Maryland School Assessments in advance, the Washington Post reports.

Maryland education officials say that there aren’t any examples of teachers using the sneak peek to cheat. They originally instituted the policy to allow teachers who were proctoring the exams to learn when they would distribute tests, hand out calculators and collect answers. The policy mattered more for a previous version of the state assessment discontinued in 2002 that required more preparation for teachers administering exams.

Before the policy was discontinued after the 2009 exams, teachers had a seven- to ten-day period before the test in which teachers could make appointments to review the booklet. Teachers could then view the test in a secure room with the school’s testing coordinator prent. No pens or paper were allowed in the room, and teachers were asked to sign a non-disclosure form.

Both D.C. and Virginia refuse to allow their teachers to see the statewide assessments before they are given.

Leslie Wilson, Maryland’s Assistant Superintendent for Accountability and Assessment, said they started noticing problems with the policy when teachers started calling to complain about questions on the exam.

“We said, wait a minute, they're using this for a purpose they're not supposed to,” Wilson told The Post.

But a University of Maryland education professor says it’s natural for teachers to want to make sure they have covered all the proper material.

"It's almost like asking teachers to go in and be sure you've covered everything,” Professor Linda Valli told The Post. “If I were a teacher, I would feel negligent if I didn't take a look at the test, if it were being presented as a legitimate part of preparing."

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