MSEA President Cheryl Bost’s Public Comments at the February 23 State Board Meeting

Good morning President Crawford, Vice President Halle, and members of the board. As many students return to their classrooms and hopefully begin the long road back to normalcy, we need time to address social-emotional challenges and trauma exacerbated by the pandemic. We need to re-instill confidence in students that their schools are safe places that can help lower their stress levels, not raise them. Students need the opportunity to reconnect with their educators and their peers in the different hybrid models, not have to sit for hours taking a test they have never seen before. They need instructional time, not testing. Many students experience anxiety when they take tests and may encounter content in this new test that they have not been taught, which will only further raise the stress and frustration levels for many students. Beyond being a first-time test for students, educators have never administered the MCAP.  Asking educators who have stepped up throughout this year, often regularly changing their entire instructional model, to learn how to administer a new test is troubling at best.

Current hybrid model conditions are such that would impact fairness and equity in test-taking experiences and data reporting. We know that after the pandemic, all schools and students need additional support. We know that inequities that existed before the pandemic have only become larger. We know there is much important work ahead—and we are thankful for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and substantial federal aid to help us do this work. Testing this year will not better inform or focus the task ahead. Educators are in no way shying away from accountability but there are better diagnostic tools that can inform student academic needs.

We learned yesterday of the federal guidance not allowing for full testing waivers, which is outrageous. The modifications MSDE has put forth today begin to navigate the new guidance, but we ask for additional items to be instituted:

Let us stand for what is decent and right for students and educators. Let us not spend precious time and financial resources creating invalid data results that will have detrimental consequences for years to come. We need to focus on strengthening a sense of belonging, building classroom communities, bridging the content gaps, and investing in summer learning opportunities—indicators we know support achievement.