Despite improvements, local school districts still have a long way to go in meeting minimum state performance standards, state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said today.
"I would have to say that overall, our standards have not been met," said Grasmick, formally unveiling the second annual state-wide school "report card."
The school report card is a key part of an ambitious, multi-year effort by the state to hold local school districts accountable for how their students perform.
According to the state data, local school systems on average met five of 13 performance standards, up from just two on last year's report card.
According to this year's report, local schools on average made "satisfactory" or "excellent" marks on elementary school promotion, elementary school attendance, and on state-mandated reading and writing tests.
Statewide, schools on average also met the state's standard for the percentage of students who passed all four state-mandated tests.
But they failed to measure up in middle school and high school attendance, the high school dropout rate, the number of 11th graders passing state-mandated mathematics and citizenship tests, and the number of students who took the functional tests for the first time.
While performance has improved in a year, "we would hope that we would see much greater acceleration of progress over the next three years," said Grasmick.
She also voiced alarm at the relatively poor performance of black males in a number of categories.
But the superintendent stressed that "a report card has several marking periods. . . . The total goal is not achieved until we've completed all the marking periods."
She said she is confident that all school systems will meet the state's 1996 deadline for making the grade on all facets of the report card.
Meanwhile, Grasmick said the state Department of Education intends to seek a $33 million state "challenge grant" for schools having trouble meeting the state's standards.
The state performance program sets certain targets that schools and school districts must meet in order to earn "satisfactory" or "excellent" grades in various categories. The state also lists those that fail to meet minimum performance levels.
This year's report card lists performance in more categories than last year's, and for the first time reports the performance of individual schools within the school districts.
In the Baltimore area, school performance varied widely.
Baltimore City, for example, met the state's standards only in the number of high school juniors who passed the functional reading test.
Anne Arundel County failed to make the grade in seven of the 13 areas.
But Howard County stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Frederick County at the top of the list, meeting or exceeding all but two of the state's standards -- middle school and high school attendance.
Similarly, Carroll County met all but two of the state's standards, and Baltimore and Harford Counties met all but three. State education officials stress that schools are not expected to meet all the standards early in the program, but are expected to improve from year to year.
All school districts in the state are expected to score at least "satisfactory" on all categories the current report card by 1996, or suffer some unspecified sanction set by the state Department of Education.
Options being discussed include such radical alternatives as a state takeover of a substandard school district, or contracting out operations to a university or a private business.