Steve Ferrara, director of student assessment at the Maryland State Department of Education, describes how the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program addresses equity. Excerpted from a personal communication, November 1995.
"First of all, in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, our statewide high stakes performance based assessment program and in all our state assessment programs, we are mindful of equity issues and try to address them in all phases of development and implementation of those programs. We define equity in terms race ethnicity, sex, socio-economic status or wealth, and for students who are from regular, special education and LEP programs and so forth. We address equity in at least five ways. First, through program philosophy, second, through test design and development procedures, third through test administration procedures, and fourth through scoring, and fifth, through statistical analysis. I want to comment briefly on just a couple of those. First of all, regarding program philosophy, we address and try to ensure equity through program philosophy and our philosophy in Maryland is a philosophy that I think is very typical-that all students can learn, that all students should have access to rigorous curriculum and instruction, and that all students, teachers, schools and so forth, should be held to high but attainable standards, and that's for all students. Addressing equity through test administration procedures, I'll make two brief comments. First, we strive for standardize test administrations for all students, and that's a difficult thing given the complexity of our MSPAP, involves group activities, hands on science tasks and tool manipulatives with the science and mathematics tests. We also provide accommodations that allow special ed. and LEP students to participate in this assessment program. Without some of these administration accommodations, such as time extensions, the ability to dictate responses, they wouldn't be able to participate in a program like this. Two other brief comments, we try to address equity in the scoring progress by insuring that scorers are blind to the region, state, school and any background information on the student whose answer book is being scored. We also go through large numbers of reviews of assessment activities in the development process and considerable rigorous statistical analysis of student responses to detect what some people call item by us and what many others call differential item function. In the end, we attempt to, in the knowledge score assessment program, we attempt to address and insure equity in all stages of the test, design and development processes."