Wow! What a performance.
Carroll students passed state muster in 11 of the 13 knowledge and other areas of the Maryland School Performance Program, which evaluates each district against academic and pupil participation criteria. Carroll achieved the state's "satisfactory"or "excellent" standards in all but writing and secondary school attendance, ranking the district third among Maryland's 24 districts.
"We're very pleased with the results," Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said yesterday. "We were fortunate to do better in many areasthan we did last year. And we were quite successful last year."
Carroll achieved satisfactory scores in reading, math and citizenship among first-time test takers; excellent scores in reading, writing and "passing all tests" among juniors; satisfactory in math and citizenship scores among juniors; and satisfactory in elementary attendance and dropout rates.
This year's report card was broadened to include 13 categories. School districts now are reporting the outcomes of functional tests given to high school juniors in reading, math, writing and citizenship.
Carroll fared far better than the average Maryland district.
Overall, Maryland passed just five of the 13 categories, failing to meet state-set goals for all functional tests taken by freshmen.
Last year, the state as a whole passed only two categories, elementary attendance and elementary promotion.
Carroll last year passed five of the eight categories, ranking among the top districts in the state.
It beat that standing this year. Carroll faredbetter than all but Frederick and Howard, which failed only to meet standards in secondary attendance.
"We were tied for fourth last year," said Gary E. Dunkleberger, director of curriculum and staff development. "This shows improvement. We rank among the highest performances in the state."
The district's success was marred, perhaps, only by a 10.4 percent drop in writing scores among first-time test-takers. The decline, which school officials said mirrored a drop in writing scores across the state, placed Carroll below the state-set satisfactory standard achieved last year.
"It's a concern to us," he said. "It's not something we want nor is it acceptable."
Carroll made strides in the three categories it failed last year. It achieved satisfactory standards in math and the dropout rate.
Although its 93.1 percent attendance rate among secondary students (grades seven through 12) was up from 92.9 percent the year before, it fell below the state-set satisfactory goal of 94 percent.
Dunkleberger said secondary attendance has been a focus of the district's pupil personnel department for some time, even before the Maryland School Performance Program came into being.
The district has made gains through various attendance-incentive programs, such as breakfast parties for homerooms with the best attendance.
Passing math scores among first-timetest-takers rose to 83.8 percent from 79.3 percent last year. The district's dropout rate decreased to 2.9 percent from 3.1 percent.
Larry E. Houser, Carroll's math supervisor, said several factors couldhave contributed to more students passing math. He said in at least one school, New Windsor Middle, teachers spend time after classes working with students identified as needing help.
He said principals and staff also have made an effort not to interrupt math classes for special school programs.
Of concern, though, was the district's dip in writing scores.
Educators offered several reasons for the decline, including the participation by two high schools in the state pre-testing program to determine the difficulty of the functional exams.
Barry Gelsinger, supervisor of English and foreign languages, said that because of the district's participation in the program, some students end up taking the functional writing test twice before the actual exam. Carroll also gives a practice test to students, he said.
"The kids are burned out," Gelsinger said. "Their energy level is lower going into the test again."
Shilling, though, offered other reasons, including "possible inflated confidence in past success." Hesaid when Carroll achieved its satisfactory score in writing last year, there was a collective sigh among teachers that "we're pretty good."
"Maybe we took our eye off the target," he said, noting emphasis would be placed on the mechanics of writing, as well as explanatory writing.
"We do need to focus on improvement in writing."
Included in the results released by Carroll officials yesterday was a breakdown of the scores among each of the five high schools, seven middle schools, and 16 of its 18 elementary schools (Spring Garden and Piney Ridge were not open last year) and the Carroll County Education Center.
The breakdown provided some interesting data.