English and math scores called weak
Fewer than half of students meet or exceed grade-level expectations
St. Mary’s public school students outscored the state average on the 2018 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests, school staff said at Wednesday’s school board meeting, but there are “some weak- nesses” in math and English, as fewer than half of the students meet or exceed grade-level expectations.
The PARCC tests, now to be called the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program or MCAP,
are considered by the Maryland State Department of Education to be “more rigorous” than the Maryland School Assessment tests that were replaced in 2015. The new tests are designed to “provide students, parents, and teachers with a better idea” about progress toward graduation and workforce readiness, according to a MSDE release.
Bill Reinhard, MSDE director of communications, said in an email Wednesday that the name change has been a “point of discussion for the past several months at state board meetings and with local superintendents.”
Although the state tests are scored on a 650-to850-point scale, scores are translated to a scale from 1 to 5. Performance levels 4 or 5 are considered to be proficient scores, while a score of a 1 means state expectations were not met, said Maureen Montgomery, deputy superintendent.
Scores on the assessments will be used for school system and school-level accountability purposes for the first time this year, as part of Maryland’s Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, plan, the release states.
ESSA’s school accountability plan will take into account the academic achievement and progress through performance on state assessments. Several other academic and
non-academic indicators will be included into the state report card’s school score, which will be released later this year.
The online Maryland Report Card lists the test results for English and math tests taken by students in third through eighth grade, as well as results for the English 10, Algebra I and Algebra II tests.
Alex Jaffurs, public schools’ assessment and accountability officer, said at the meeting that “there was some weakness” in scores for sixthgrade math, eight-grade math and Algebra I. The eighth-grade math scores showed only a slight drop from last year, decreasing from 28.9 percent to 26.5 percent. Another dip for St. Mary’s scores include
a 4.2 percentage point drop between the 2017 and 2018 Algebra I scores, at 52.4 percent and 48.2 percent.
This year’s results also point to a 10 point difference between this year’s English 10 assessment, at 51.2 percent this year compared to last year’s 61.2 percent.
Superintendent Scott Smith said one reason for the decreased English 10 score is due to the state lumping all test results together. Of “all of the children who took it, here is the average,” he said, adding that students could take the test in January or at the end of the school year.
He said one reason for the consistently low scores in eight-grade math and Algebra I is that there is a smaller number of students taking either test.
“You could have an eight-grader, or a seventh-grader, taking” the Algebra I test, said Karin Bailey, school board
This year’s MCAP scores indicate that about 68.9 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in Algebra II, a 25 point difference from last year’s 43.9 percent who met or exceeded expectations.
“On every level, on every course — we beat the state average,” Jaffurs said.
Teachers and administrators have been “breaking down the data throughout the summer” to craft curriculum that helps target what students were challenged by on the test, Jaffurs said in an email this week.
School staff use software to help with test data management and assessment building, Jaffurs said, adding that staff can analyze academic progress of different student groups like those who have free or reduced meal plans, special education requirements or based on race.
Students took this year’s series of tests in April and May. Meeting expecta- tions for both the English 10 and Algebra II tests is a graduation requirement.
Jaffurs said there is “one more full year” for school communities to take this series of assessments.
Montgomery said school staff have no other information about the new group of state assessments coming, other than the tests are in line with the current Maryland College and Career Readiness Standards. She said the test is “still going to be computer based.”
Results of the latest state assessments “show modest progress in both reading and math at the elementary and middle school levels,” Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools, said in the release.
“We all recognize that more work needs to be done” across the state, she said, adding that “important efforts to improve students’ performance are taking place in our classrooms.”