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[Susan notes: Good letter points out that Maryland shouldn't be looking to Louisiana for high-stakes test weirdness. More important, it points out these things are much more tragic than weird.]

Published in Bay Weekly

To the editor

A couple of weeks ago you printed an item about a 2003 valedictorian from a high school in New Orleans, Louisiana, who lost her diploma to a high-stakes exit exam [More Things to Worry About: News of the Weird, Vol. XI, No 35: Aug. 28]. This news item was not as weird as it was tragic and prophetic. During the first week of this school year, Maryland families were greeted with horrifying headlines proclaiming that one in two students are failing the Maryland High School Assessments, exit exams that could be required for graduation as soon as 2009.

Maryland is following Louisiana, Florida, California, Massachusetts and many other states down a track to a graduation train wreck. The reviled Florida FCAT exams cost the class of 2003 nearly 10,000 diplomas last spring. In Massachusetts, over 4,000 diplomas were lost when the MCAS exit-exam boom was lowered for the first time on the class of 2003. Many who failed these tests were honor-roll students, just like the valedictorian in Louisiana. Most had successfully completed all required coursework. Some missed passing the make-or-break tests by just a point or two. Many who failed had already been accepted to college or were looking forward to joining the military ó plans that were dashed when they lost their diplomas to high-stakes tests.

Students all over the country are failing high stakes tests for reasons completely unrelated to their achievement: misaligned instruction, test anxiety, learning disabilities, English-as-a-second-language issues, flawed test questions and undiscovered scoring errors by private testing companies.

High stakes graduation testing is dangerous, unfair and wrong for Maryland. Itís time that Marylanders put an end to the ill-conceived Maryland High School Assessments program before we are reading about Maryland students being robbed of their futures.

Sue Allison

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