Baltimore, MD – Standardized testing is a hot-button issue in schools across the nation. Not only are the scores students receive on these mandated tests used to determine their educational futures, but they can also have a big impact on the future of their educational institutions. The effectiveness of teachers and entire schools across the nation have often been based on these test scores, much to the disadvantage of many communities. Now, Maryland schools will be rated based on more than just test scores — and the state will place limits on how much time can be taken away from classroom learning for the purpose of standardized testing.

Around 83% of human learning occurs visually, with 11% through hearing. This illustrates why visual aids are so important in the classroom. But with an emphasis placed on scoring highly on standardized tests, both staff and students often feel immense pressure to teach or absorb what’s in their textbooks just long enough to do well, rather than retaining knowledge for the long-haul and actually applying principles in real life. Maryland’s teachers have argued that having to cover the material outlined in these tests actually takes time away from real learning, in addition to disrupting their regular classroom routines.

As a result, state lawmakers reviewed policies relating to testing and passed legislation that caps the number of hours students are allowed to be tested every year. The law took effect earlier this month. Now, mandatory testing may represent only 2.2% of classroom time on a yearly basis, which translates to 24 hours for elementary and middle schools and 26 hours for high schools. Eighth graders are subjected to additional testing, so they have a slightly higher cap, at 2.3%. Most Maryland schools are already within these limits, but three school systems will have to reduce their testing times.

In addition, the Maryland school board recently approved a new rating system that will incorporate not only test scores but academic achievement, attendance rates, enrollment, and even parent surveys into school scores. For the last 10 years or so, test scores factored significantly into how institutions were ranked. But with the new system, schools will be judged on a more comprehensive, five-star rating scale. They’re hoping that this new system will give parents and community members a more complete picture of the schools in question.

Cheryl Bost, vice president of the Maryland State Education Association, told The Baltimore Sun, “Our kids are more than just standardized test scores and that’s why educators and parents value all of what our students learn in school, not just what is measured on one assessment.”