English and math scores called weak

Fewer than half of stu­dents meet or ex­ceed grade-level ex­pec­ta­tions

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JAC­QUI ATKIELSKI jatkiel­ski@somd­news.com

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

chair­woman.

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.”

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