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February 23, 2010

Maryland Poised to Lead In the Long Run

Maryland seems poised to become a national model for effectively collecting and using early education data. Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed to the Maryland legislature the creation of a data collection system that would track its students from pre-k through 12th grade and beyond. This step, combined with the state's Work Sampling System, could provide the most developmentally appropriate and comprehensive data system in the nation. From FairTest.org:
The Work Sampling System is a continuous assessment format which helps teachers and families gain perspective on the students development over an eight-year period, from ages 3 to 11.  
Many states are moving towards a longitudinal system, but only Maryland has the child-centered assessments system to make the data valuable. Work Sampling has been shown reliable and valid up to 11 years old. This makes the Maryland system student-centered, longitudinal and able to answer important policy questions that guide accountability and funding decisions. Some of the answers that Michael Keller, former director of policy analysis and research for the Maryland Higher Education Commission highlighted are:
What achievement levels in elementary school indicate that a student is "on track" for later success? What effect does early grade retention have on later academic success? What evidence exists that students who pass courses have learned the course content? Which elementary, middle and high schools in the state are consistently highest performing in preparing different student populations? What high school achievement levels indicate that a student is ready for college or work?
These are just a few of the questions this system could answer. It could also answer a big pre-k question: When do the effects of pre-k show up the most? Is it by third grade as the fans of the "fade effect" suggest or is it, as I suspect, as cumulative and important in middle and high school?


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