June 19, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — The desks in RoseMarie Norris's eighth-grade classroom at East Middle School are empty.

The math textbooks, the calculators and rulershave been put away.

It's summer vacation and the students are gone.

But Norris, who is cleaning out cupboards and desk drawers on this warm June day --the last day for teachers -- is already thinking about next year andhow to incorporate some of the test exercises in the daily lesson plan.

Many educators are thinking about the future and how the results of State Criterion Reference tests given to students last month will reflect on, as well as affect, the district's math curriculum.

The tests were given before the results of a national mathematics exam, given randomly to students across the country and in some U.S. territories, were released.

State School Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling said the results, in which Maryland eighth-grade students scored at the national average, support the need to "move ahead at full speed" with his education reform initiative, Schools for Success.

The initiative includes the state's criterion-referenced tests, given to third-, fifth- and eighth-grade students in May. The exams, which test higher thinking skills, will be used to determine areas in which mathematics instruction can be improved.

To further boost math skills, the superintendent has recommended that the state require high school students to take courses in algebraic and geometric concepts inorder to graduate.

The results of the sample math exam, considered to be a forerunner of a comprehensive series of national tests, didnot surprise Carroll educators.

"It's kind of what I expected," said Larry L. Houser, supervisor of mathematics. "I would certainly like to see students doing better. With the new emphasis on math and state reform, I think students will perform better.

"Math is becoming more and more important," he added. "We have to really take a good hard look at making students mathematically literate."

That process is in place. All eighth-graders, for example, have received new textbooks in the past three or four years. The books have moved away from the memorization of mathematical formulas to the development of problem-solving skills.

Although the National Assessment of EducationProgress exam gives an indication of how students fared statewide, it doesn't provide local educators with any data on Carroll students, some who participated in the sample.

Educators will have a better idea how Carroll students are faring when the results of the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills are released next month.

"I felt prettyconfident about the CTBS," Norris said. "I think we had covered all the material in our curriculum. We had practiced the format."

However, Allan K. Butler, supervisor of special programs and assessment, said he didn't expect Carroll students to perform as well as they have on the multiple-choice California Achievement Test.

The CAT, he said, has given educators an inflated picture of school performance the past several years. Although both tests are norm-referenced, the CAT scores are reported in relation to the performance of a group of California students who took the test when it was developed in the 1970s. The new test was developed in 1988 and will be reported in relation to students across the nation.

The results of the state tests aren't expected until next spring.