A deal offered yesterday by the U.S. Department of Education would allow 16 school systems to opt out of the eighth-grade portion of the Maryland School Performance Assessment tests. Eight systems receiving federal Title I funds would be required to administer the exam to maintain accountability. Some districts have said the MSPAP, which emphasizes analytical skills rather than rote memorization, is unreliable and inappropriate for younger students. The state currently is developing another exam to meet new federal testing requirements.

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