No one called it a spectacular performance. But Carroll educators were pleased that the county school system had the second highest overall academic scores in the Maryland School Performance Program.
Rated "satisfactory" in reading, writing and citizenship, Carroll only failed to reach the state-set goal in math. Carroll fell just 0.7 percentage points short of the 80 percent standard.
"I'm especially pleased how we look in this first report," Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said.
The state performance standards, released this week, set levels school districts should meet in order to be rated "satisfactory" or "excellent."
Schools were rated in four academic categories and in student attendance, dropout rates and promotion rates.
Carroll's academic scores, with state standards for satisfactory and excellent in parentheses, were: reading, 96.5 (95 and 97); math, 79.3 (80 and 90); writing, 95.7 (90 and 96) and citizenship, 87.7 (85 and 92).
With an overall average of 89.8 percent, Carroll placed below only Howard County, which had a 90.3 percent average. However, Howard County, with a slightly higher population, spends much more per pupil -- $5,549 a year -- than Carroll, which spends $4,320.
Montgomery County, which spends $6,629 per pupil, fell below Carroll with an 89.5 percent overall average. The Montgomery rating, though, did not include citizenship scores.
"We feel very good about being able to compete along with those counties," said Shilling, noting that Montgomery and Howard are consistently ranked among the best school systems in the nation.
In other categories, Carroll rated satisfactory in annual school attendance for pupils, grades one through six, but failed to meet state goals for high school student attendance and annual dropout rate.
The system, though, was rated excellent for its annual promotion rate of elementary students. Carroll promoted 99.1 percent of its students, compared with the state goals of 96 percent for satisfactory and 98 percent for excellent.
Educators said the state performance standards were set deliberately high so schools would strive to reach new levels of excellence.
School officials credited Carroll's performance to a high-quality staff, teacher involvement in curriculum development, support from parents and dedicated students.
Although Carroll scored one of the highest performance standards, Shilling said the results show the need to focus on improvement in all areas to reach "excellent" standards.
Gary E. Dunkleberger, Carroll's director of curriculum/staff development, said the excellent standard means "not just getting by. It's something well beyond that."
School districts also will have to meet more stringent state goals in the future. Eventually, students in grades three, five, eight and 11 will be tested in reading, math, writing/language usage, social studies and science.
To prepare those students, school officials said, additional resources will be needed. They noted that Carroll ranks 16th among the state's school systems in per-pupil spending and 22nd, well below the state average, in staffing.
Improvement also should be focused on boosting secondary attendance, decreasing the dropout rate and increasing functional math scores. A revised elementary math curriculum should boost those scores, educators said.
"There's plenty for us to do," Shilling said. "We're particularly concerned about the limits we have on resources. We're concerned about how we're going to be able to meet new goals. We won't be able to without the resources."