Black Males' Low Test Scores Alarm Board Member

Results Prompt Leggett's Call For Corrective Measures

April 02, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

Too many black males in the county scored at the bottom of a new standardized state test, a school board member said yesterday.

Vincent O. Leggett, one of two black school board members, took results from the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program -- first released last Thursday -- and analyzed scores for black males alone.

Using his own pencil-drawn charts and graphs, Leggett told board members and school officials that the performance of black males got "progressively worse" from third to eighth grade.

"It's a trend that's just not healthy from this board member's perspective," Leggett said. "We should be looking at the various data and hopefully developing strategies to address it."

The Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, first given across the state last May, tested students in third, fifth and eighth grades in four subject areas. The tests, which took nine hours over several days, required students to applywhat they've learned in the classroom to real-life situations.

Test scores were divided into five levels, with Level 1 representing the highest proficiency and Level 5 the lowest. Leggett said far too many young black males were scoring in the bottom level.

"It looks like 50 (percent) to 70 percent of the black students scored in the fifth level," he said.

In reading, for example, 57 percent of black males in third grade scored in the bottom level. By fifth grade, 67 percent were at Level 5 and by eighth, 73 percent. In language usage, 60 percent of the black males scored at Level 5 in third grade, 67 percent in fifth grade and 74 percent in eighth grade.

By comparison, 32 percent of the third-graders, 31 percent of the fifth-graders, and 38 percent of the eighth-graders countywide scored at the lowest level in reading. In language usage, 37 percent of the third-graders, 38 percent of the fifth-graders, and 38 percent of the eighth-gradersscored at the bottom.

Statewide, about 40 percent of the 160,000 students tested scored at Level 5, with another 35 percent scoring atLevel 4. Fewer than 2 percent of students overall scored at the highest level.

Leggett said black males scored disproportionately low in math and writing sections of the test as well. He did not want to get into a discussion about "who's to blame -- the test-makers, the students, teachers, parents," he said.

"This is not acceptable, no matter who's to blame," he said.

School officials said Leggett's analysis seemed accurate and administrators were aware of the results.

"We need to continue to do better," said Cheryl Wilhoyte, assistant superintendent for instruction and school administration. "The whole issue of expectations -- racial, cultural and by gender -- must beaddressed."

In other action, the board:

* Voted unanimously toapprove four furlough days for three school-employee unions, including the 3,900-member teachers union and the union representing school secretaries.

The furlough days, tentatively scheduled for April 21and 22 and June 17 and 18, are needed to make up for budget cuts to the school system's current operating budget.

County schools need to cut about $8.4 million because of reductions in state aid to Maryland's 23 counties.

Four furlough days are expected to save the county more than $4 million, school officials said.

Tom Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, asked the board to refund teachers for any furlough days if state cuts end up being less than expected. The state legislature has not passed a budgetpackage finalizing the amount of the cuts.

"When you start playing with people's paychecks, you start playing with their lives," Paolino said.

The board agreed the amount subtracted from employees' paychecks would be adjusted if the school system lost less in state aidthan expected.

* Voted, 7-1, to approve a revised school policy banning portable pagers, commonly known as beepers, from school property. The policy is in keeping with a state law banning beepers from school grounds, except for law enforcement officers and other professionals who use them for their jobs.

The new school policy, and statelaw, also exempts disabled students who use pagers for medical purposes, and visitors, faculty and staff who have legitimate reasons for carrying them.

Pagers have been banned in schools because of the their use in conducting drug deals and other illegal activity.

* Voted unanimously to end the split feeder system in the Old Mill and Severna Park area and allow Elvaton Acres students to move from Oak Hill Elementary into Southgate Elementary School.

Parents of Elvaton Acres had argued during two public hearings that their community had stronger ties to the Old Mill area and its high school than to Severna Park High.

The end of the split feeder system also moves all incoming sixth-grade students from Rippling Woods Elementary and Southgate Elementary into Old Mill Middle North, and all students from Glen Burnie Park Elementary to Old Mill Middle South.

Nine students living in the Gray's Luck development will be assigned from Rippling Woods Elementary to Southgate Elementary.

The changes go into effect in the fall.

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