Keeping You Current on Education
Reform in Maryland
|March 31, 2000
||Vol. 11, No. 6
What Every Teacher
Needs to Know About MSPAP
Why does Maryland use the Maryland School Performance Assessment
MSPAP tests schools' mastery of the Maryland Learning Outcomes, which were
created in 1990 to specify what students should know and be able to do as a result of
their educational experiences. MSPAP is essential to Maryland's school improvement efforts
because it shows what is, and what is not, working at the state, local, and school levels.
This information is key to planning and refining improvement initiatives.
Why do we need accountability in Maryland schools?
The purpose of accountability in school reform is to introduce and
maintain a focus of resources and assistance to schools and systems that need it.
Accountability also prods self-analysis and continual improvement, which are essential for
success in all areas, including public education.
Why has Maryland set such high expectations with MSPAP?
The state has set expectations high because students must be able to
compete in a world economy. Careers in the 21st century will reflect a more global society
and economy driven by rapid advances in technology. Maryland schools must afford students
the opportunity to be competitive, nationally and globally, upon graduation. The rigor of
MSPAP is a response to the need to raise expectations for students and schools. Also, the
Maryland Learning Outcomes are challenging, and MSPAP reflects this.
Is it fair that all schools are held to the same standards?
If Maryland is to improve the learning and achievement of all its
students, the same challenging expectations used to gauge the progress of wealthy or
otherwise advantaged schools must also be used to gauge the progress of schools with large
populations of disadvantaged students. The alternative is to create separate, lower
expectations for students based on statistical predilection rather than potential. Such an
inequitable system would do a grave disservice to those students needing the most help.
Is MSPAP developmentally appropriate?
Yes. The test is developed by experienced Maryland educators. Checks are
in place to ensure developmentally appropriate tasks and materials. Local school media
specialists select reading materials in topic areas, and reading content area staff review
materials for bias, sensitivity, and readability. After third-, fifth-, and eighth-grade
average readers read the material with state reading specialists, an analysis
is conducted to determine if the readability is appropriate. Only materials that average
readers can read independently and show evidence of construction of meaning are used on
Also, third-, fifth-, and eighth-grade teachers, educational
psychologists, instructional supervisors, principals, and university faculty review MSPAP
tasks to ensure that they are developmentally appropriate for the grade level in which
they are to be administered. MSPAP tasks also are field-tested in other states, and
Content Coordinator Teams review and sign-off on the tasks.
MSPAP's emphasis on higher-order thinking skills, such as reasoning and
problem-solving, is based firmly in research that shows young children possess these
skills and that these skills should be cultivated in the early grades.
Who scores MSPAP and when?
After MSPAP testing is complete, tests are collected and scored by an
independent scoring contractor using trained Maryland teachers. For approximately four to
seven weeks in June and July, at several sites across Maryland, approximately 750 Maryland
teachers score MSPAP tasks.
Do MSPAP scorers receive special training?
Scorers are trained before scoring begins. The training process takes
place over several days and gives scorers ample opportunity to read the MSPAP scoring
tools, to learn the MSPAP scoring guidelines, and to practice task scoring. After scorers
practice, their ability to score accurately is tested using qualifying sets,
to ensure quality control in scoring. Only scorers who have successfully passed the
qualifying sets are retained.
Additional training and materials are used to diagnose and prevent
individual and/or team drift from scoring criteria during the scoring process. Training is
continuous throughout the scoring process. Scorers regularly receive feedback and, if
necessary, attend mini training sessions.
Do scorers have any expertise in the content area they are
At the eighth-grade level, teams of mathematics, science, social studies,
and reading/writing/language usage teachers score within their subject area or in
integrated areas (e.g., science/mathematics) where appropriate. At grades three and five,
where most teachers work across subjects, teachers may score various content areas.
What happens when students are absent during MSPAP testing?
Depending on the length of their absence, students may receive a score of
zero or an algorithmic score. Algorithmic scoring is a process for estimating a score for
students who complete most, but not all, of a task. To be eligible for algorithmic
scoring, a student must have attempted at least 60 percent of the content area and at
least eight independent items.
In 1999, in response to educator concerns about the negative impact of
absenteeism on school scores, the state introduced the MSPAP Adjusted Average, which
reports the average performance of only the students who actually took the test. This
means that schools and systems now can see how well they did on MSPAP before taking into
account absent students.
Questions about administering MSPAP?
Contact your school test coordinator. He or she works closely with your
school system's Local Accountability Coordinator and will be able to answer any questions
about the test.
Maryland Education on the Web
There is a wealth of information and resources available to parents and
teachers on the World Wide Web. To learn more about Maryland public education, visit these
Maryland State Department of Education Home Page
Research state education programs and teacher certification requirements.
Download publications and news releases.
School Improvement in Maryland
Learn how to interpret student achievement data.
Compare your school's MSPAP scores to schools with similar student populations.
Download the Maryland Learning Outcomes, MSPAP public release tasks, and task force
The Maryland School Performance Report www.msp.msde.state.md.us
Research MSPAP and functional test results.
View trends. Now available are data on special services, enrollment, and attendance rates.
Minority Achievement in Maryland
Keep up-to-date on Maryland's Education That is Multicultural regulations.
Access a directory of organizations and resources related to diversity and multicultural
School & Community Outreach Office
Maryland State Department of Education
200 W. Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Web site: www.msde.state.md.us
Assistant State Superintendent