Room for improvement in schools ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

November 17, 1992

The state's annual "report card" shows that schools in Anne Arundel County are making progress, but they still have a long way to go.

The third annual Maryland School Performance Report, issued yesterday by the state Department of Education, finds county schools meeting 9 of 13 performance standards, up from 6 of 13 last year and 2 of 8 in 1990.

The best news is that ninth grade performance in reading, mathematics, writing and citizenship improved. Although Anne Arundel students continue to operate below standard in writing and citizenship, the percentage of those passing grew in both subjects.

PTC Despite the gains, more work is needed:

* Only 73 percent of Maryland's ninth graders passed the functional math test. (Anne Arundel compared favorably, with 81.6 percent passing.)

* The statewide dropout rate is up, due largely to Baltimore City, where the rate is an appallingly high 16.4 percent of high schoolers. (At 5 percent, Anne Arundel's dropout rate exceeds minimum standards.)

* African-American and Hispanic students performed well below whites and Asian-Americans.

Only 42.5 percent of students statewide -- and 41.2 percent in Anne Arundel -- take the courses necessary to meet minimum enrollment standards for the University of Maryland System.

In three years, the state has done a good job in setting standards. Now it must refine its new tests, which go beyond the basic skills covered in the functional tests to assess student ability in thinking and problem-solving. Eventually, the inclusion of these results will give a much clearer picture of what the state's students are able to do.

One final point worth noting: the report card shows that four jurisdictions in the state with lower-than-average per pupil spending -- Baltimore City and Prince George's, Caroline and St. Mary's counties -- pay the price in poor student performance.

Anne Arundel spends $5,837 per pupil, slightly more than the state average. Although test results indicate the money is being put to good use, some other school systems spending less per student had better scores -- a fact that ought to make local educators look closely at whether their system is fulfilling its potential.

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