MSPAP Dropped

K-12 Testing

Maryland has dropped its controversial decade-old Maryland State Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) exams, primarily in response to Elementary and Secondary Education Act requirements to produce individual student scores in reading and math. Administered in grades 3, 5 and 8, MSPAP questions each required extended answers and covered more than one subject area (see Examiner, Winter 1991-92). To prevent the test from being too long, each student answered only some of the questions. Thus, the exam produced school-level but not individual scores.


The exam had been attacked for "subjectivity" by educational conservatives who wanted only multiple-choice tests, and by others for not producing individual scores. Many teachers and principals opposed the use of the exam as the near-sole school accountability factor, though many also agreed the exam fostered some valuable teaching practices. In its 1997 report card, Testing Our Children, FairTest viewed MSPAP as perhaps the single best state exam but opposed its misuse in accountability.


State schools superintendent Nancy Grasmick said Maryland will adopt a new test to meet ESEA requirements, probably a modified commercial exam that will lack the extended responses that were integral to MSPAP. She also said that in two years, "people will be weeping over the loss of MSPAP" because it contributed to improved teaching.