Kent County posts middling PARCC results
CHESTERTOWN — Kent County Public Schools posted a slight slide in the percentage of students who met standards on state assessments for the 2016-17 academic year.
The Maryland Report Card for the 2016-17 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams were posted online last month at reportcard. msde. mar yland. gov. The PARCC exams include English language arts for third through eighth grades and 10th grade, math for third through eighth grade, algebra I and algebra II.
All told, there were 15 different exams. Out of the nine counties on the Shore, Kent averaged seventh on the exams, most frequently jostling for position with Dorchester and Somerset counties. A first-blush review of the numbers shows Baltimore City schools at the bottom of the scoring while Worcester County students led the state on a number of tests.
“We know there’s still work to be done,” said Superintendent Karen Couch. “I believe our leadership team is well poised to address the urgency of student performance.”
Kent County Board of Education President Trish McGee, who also is associate editor of the Kent County
News, was disheartened by the district’s PARCC scores, though she maintained high esteem for students, teachers and administrators, in- cluding Couch.
“I think we have an incredibly hard-working staff. I mean, I feel like our teachers are really invested in the success of our students,” McGee said, adding that she is not pointing fingers at the administration, teachers or support staff.
Still, she said the district needs to turn the scores around.
“There had been talk of making us one of the top five districts in the state. We’re not even one of the top five districts on the Shore,” McGee said.
McGee said Kent’s small student population heavily influences the scores and rankings. She said it does not look like it went to Kent’s advantage this year.
Just a few students scoring better or worse can swing percentages with Kent’s average of about 135 children taking one of the exams versus an average of about 1,819 students on each exam in Carroll County or 8,509 students in Montgomery County. In Queen Anne’s County, the average was about 531 students taking each exam.
McGee questioned why, though, when the student population is so small, the district did not improve. She
said the district tracks student progress throughout the year.
“I’d like to see how that’s working, because it didn’t show up on the test scores,” McGee said.
Couch said the district begins assessing students in September, to see where they are showing deficiencies. The district consolidated five elementary schools to three at the start of the current school year, which Couch hopes will provide greater opportunities for grade-level collaboration among teachers.
She agreed that the district’s size presents a challenge, as one or two students can be the difference between showing improvement on overall scores or posting a decrease.
“It’s not an excuse. We have to be cognizant and mindful that all of us want to see every child succeed,” Couch said.
She said the district also faces budgetary challenges that do not afford it the curriculum support larger districts have, making teacher collaboration all the more important for success.
“I’m confident that we’re on the right path to dramatically improve student performance,” Couch said. “We definitely have room to grow.”
The PARCC scores are based on whether students exceeded standards, met standards, approached standards, partially met standards or do not meet standards. Our district rankings are based on the percentages of students who met or exceeded standards.
The Maryland Report Card made it impossible to determine some numbers because it did not report hard data when the total was less than or equal to 5 percent of students. If less than or equal to 5 percent of students exceeded standards and another less than or equal to 5 percent did not meet standards, such as Kent County’s algebra II scores, we could only make an estimate based on the other scores given.
Kent placed eighth on the Shore for English 3 with 24.8 percent of test-takers meeting or exceeding standards. Another 22 percent of Kent test-takers approached standards. Worcester County topped the Shore and the state with 59.6 percent of testtakers meeting or exceeding standards. Queen Anne’s was second on the Shore with 44.9 percent. Other high scorers in the state were Howard County at 55.9 percent and Anne Arundel County at 55.8.
In English 4, Kent placed seventh on the Shore with 34.7 percent. Another 21.8 percent approached standards. Worcester again topped the Shore and the state at 59 percent, with Queen Anne’s coming in second on the Shore with 53.2 percent. Howard tied Worcester for the top state score with 59, followed by Carroll County at 56.5 percent.
Kent moved up to sixth on the Shore for English 5 with a 34.5 percent. Another 30.9 percent approached standards. Worcester and Howard continued to be tops in the state with 60.2 percent and 56 percent, respectively, while Talbot took second on the Shore with 50.5 percent.
In Math 3, Kent was seventh on the Shore with a 37.2 percent. Another 25.5 percent approached standards. Worcester topped the state and the Shore with a 66.7 percent. Queen Anne’s came in second on the Shore with 58.1 percent. Carroll with 66.6 percent and Calvert County with 64.1 percent placed second and third in the state, respectively.
It was seventh place on the Shore again for Kent in Math 4 with a 30.6 percent. Another 33.1 percent approached standards. Carroll, Howard and Calvert were tops in the state with 62.7 percent, 55.8 percent and 52.6 percent, respectively. Worcester topped the Shore with a 48.5 percent followed by Queen Anne’s at about 45 percent.
For Math 5, Kent was seventh on the Shore with a 22.1 percent. Another 32.1 percent approached standards. Queen Anne’s and Worcester topped the Shore with 48.9 percent and 48.3 percent, respectively. Carroll was tops in the state at 61. 3 percent, followed by Howard at 52.5 percent and Frederick County with 50.1 percent.
Kent came in second to last on the Shore with 23.8 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations for English 6 and another 37 percent approaching standards. Queen Anne’s topped the Shore and the state with 54.1 percent. Howard came in second in the state at 53.4 percent. Worcester was second on the Shore with 52.6 percent.
For English 7, Kent was seventh on the Shore with 33.3 percent. Another 28.3 percent approached standards. Queen Anne’s was on top with a 69 percent and Worcester came in second in the state and on the Shore with a 61.8 percent. Howard was the third-top scoring district with 58.7 percent.
Kent slipped down to eighth for English 8 with a 28.8 percent. Another 21.2 percent approached standards. Queen Anne’s, Worcester and Howard were the top three at 58.9 percent, 55.9 percent and 54.5 percent, respectively.
In Math 6, Kent placed seventh on the Shore with a 22.1 percent. Another 27.9 percent approached standards. Queen Anne’s topped the Shore with 48.9 percent, followed by Worcester with 40 percent. Queen Anne’s was third in the state below Carroll with a 49.5 percent and top-ranked Howard with 50.8 percent.
Kent was sixth for Math 7 with a 21.1 percent. Another 36.2 percent approached standards. Carroll, Frederick and Caroline County were the top three in the state with 46.6 percent, 42.7 percent and 42.6 percent, respectively.
Kent’s lowest score was in Math 8, with 4.3 percent of test-takers meeting or exceeding standards. Another 26.9 percent of test-takers approached standards. Worcester topped the Shore and the state with a 45.7 percent. Caroline came in second on the Shore with a 34.8 percent. Second and third in the state went to Carroll with 41.7 percent and Frederick with 37.2 percent.
In English 10, Kent ranked fourth on the Shore with a 52.6 percent. Another 19.5 percent approached standards. Queen Anne’s topped the Shore and was second in the state with 66.5 percent. Worcester was second on the Shore with 55.9 percent. Carroll was first in the state with 67.2 percent, while Calvert rounded out the top three with 66.3 percent.
It was back down to eighth place in algebra I for Kent with 25.5 percent. Another 27.9 percent approached standards. Queen Anne’s was tops on the Shore with 56.2 percent, followed by Worcester with 49.8 percent. Howard, Carroll and Frederick were the top three in the state with 62.6 percent, 62 percent and 59.6 percent, respectively.
Kent received its highest marks on the algebra II exam, with about 64.9 percent of test-takers meeting or exceeding expectations. Another 32.5 percent approached standards. Kent was second on the Shore behind Cecil County, which also ranked third in the state with about 75.1 percent. Montgomery County topped the state with 80.8 percent. Carroll was second in the state with 78.4 percent.
Ups and Downs
This is the third year Maryland students have taken the PARCC exams. Kent students have shown growth over the first-year scores, but there were decreases on a number of exams from last year in terms of the percentage of students who met standards.
The percentage of students who met standards increased from the 2015-16 PARCC exams on four exams.
On the English 4 exam, 28.2 percent of test-takers in Kent County met standards, an increase of 3.2 percent from the previous year. For English 5, the district posted 32.1 percent, a .9 percent increase. Of Kent’s English 8 test-takers, 24.8 percent met standards, a 6.6 percent increase over the previous year’s scores.
On Math 4, 29.8 percent of students met standards, a 3 percent increase over the previous year. In algebra I, 24.8 percent of Kent test-takers met standards, a 2.1 percent increase.
Over all categories, the district posted an average decrease of 1.7 percent of Kent test-takers meeting standards on the 2016-17 PARCC exams against those who scored at the same level the prior year. With an average of 135 students sitting on each exam, if about three more children had met standards on every test, the district would have posted increases.
Kent showed decreases in the percent of test-takers meeting standards on 10 of the 15 exams. Queen Anne’s posted decreases on four exams, likewise with Carroll, a district that ranked high in the state. Somerset, frequently ranked on the Shore below Kent, posted decreases on nine exams.
The last academic year was tumultuous for the district, notably as it worked through budget woes and closing two elementary schools.
McGee could not say whether such tensions may have played out in the classroom. She said those issues were ongoing from the prior year, but did not reflect in the 2015-16 PARCC results.
“I feel like that’s falling into a trap of an excuse,” McGee said. “There really is always going to be something. This year, it was the perfect storm. I feel like everything was conspiring against us. How much of that affected our test scores, the learning that was going on in our classrooms, I couldn’t say.”
McGee is requesting the PARCC results be on the Board of Education’s agenda Sept. 11. She does not expect to be presented with a plan on how to improve scores at the meeting, but said she will want to hear one in the future.
“I just want to reaffirm that I have a lot of faith in our superintendent,” McGee said. “There are lots of exceptional students in our schools. I think our staff is great. But obviously there’s something that we’re missing.”
Kent County Middle School Principal Mary Helen Spiri talks to twin brothers Sean Gallo, left, and Liam Gallo, on Tuesday, which was the first day of school for the sixth-graders. At far left is eighth-grade math teacher Tyler Moore.