Superintendent Martha Peek said the majority of teachers and principals in Mobile County Schools have had a positive reaction to designing individual End of Quarter Tests (EQTs) for the system’s 54 elementary schools.
The comment came in response to complaints from some teachers who were unhappy with the increased workload caused by designing the tests in house.
“The EQTs this year are moving into the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards and we needed to align our EQTs more closely to those standards,” Peek said. “Some principals and teachers asked to have the latitude to develop their own EQTs.”
EQTs are aligned to district and statewide standards and are given quarterly to make sure students are learning the required material throughout the year.
In Alabama, those standards are comprised of Common Core State Standards, which were adopted by the state legislature in 2010 and are still in the process of being fully implemented.
The change to Common Core yielded some poor results on the first two EQTs this year, and the results of the first quarter were eventually thrown out because of significant drops in math and language arts scores.
According to a MCPSS spokesperson, teachers began developing math EQTs beginning in the third quarter of this school year.
Chief Academic Officer Karen Mohr said the responsibility for the development of the EQTs was given to teachers in an effort to reduce teacher stress.
“Teachers study the standards to identify what students should know and should be able to do with the information,” Mohr said in an email. “Teachers develop the EQT to align with a standard. The EQTs are submitted to ensure the level of rigor and accuracy in assessing a standard.”
Jesse McDaniel, who represents Mobile teachers for the Alabama Education Association (AEA), spoke to members of the school board on behalf of teachers during a March 24 meeting.
McDaniel said he’s spoken to more than 10 teachers who’ve complained over the extra work involved with planning these tests.
“I had a couple of teachers give me a call and raise a concern with each (elementary) school being required to develop its own EQT test, whereas in the past (the tests) have been created by academic affairs or the central office,” he said. “There’s been no expression of what the value of this is to measuring the district as a whole, and I fail to understand how that is being done best when each facility is having to develop its own test.”
According to McDaniel, no special workdays or extra planning time is being allotted for the extra work, and many teachers have to work on test planning after hours or during the weekends.
“This time is important to our faculty and staff,” he said. “I would ask the board to please reconsider how these tests are being developed. If they’re going to be developed school by school, perhaps that could be done on a voluntary basis or special planning time could be allotted.”
Peek said the move was about autonomy and would ultimately include more school-level input in the tests.
“Anytime you do something new there’s pros and cons. Evidently some people are having a problem with the extra time, but overall the responses we’ve gotten are positive,” Peek said. “Most teachers and principals have liked the opportunity to really study and know the standards better.”
Third-quarter EQTs in the MCPSS were completed in late March.
(This story was updated on March 26 at 4:20 p.m. to reflect information provided by MCPSS and Jesse McDaniel of the AEA)