Baltimore Co. scores fair on Maryland skills tests

June 15, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Baltimore County students scored slightly higher than the state average in most subjects and at most grade levels on the 1992 Maryland School Performance Assessment tests, but the majority of students still scored at the two lowest proficiency levels.

When the scores are applied to the proposed state standards, county schools are again slightly higher than state scores at the satisfactory level, but fall above and below state rankings in the excellent category. But for both the satisfactory and excellent standards, the county schools are still well below the goals the state has in mind for its students.

By 1996, the State Board of Education wants 70 percent of the students in every school to achieve satisfactory scores -- level 3 or above -- and 25 percent to score excellent -- level 2 or above. The tests are scored at five proficiency levels with 1 being the highest and 5 the lowest.

The county scores show, for instance, that 67 percent of the third-graders tested scored at level 4 and 5 in reading; 30.8 percent scored at level 3, and 2.1 percent at levels 1 and 2. The state averages for the same group in reading indicate nearly 70 percent in levels 4 and 5, 28.7 percent at level 3 and 2.1 percent at levels 1 and 2.

Applying the proposed state standards, 30.7 percent of the county schools achieved a satisfactory rating and 1.9 percent were excellent. Statewide, 28.6 percent ranked satisfactory and 2 percent excellent.

"We don't meet the state standards, as a system," said Paul Mazza, the county schools' director of student evaluation. "We have a long way to go, but I don't think it's any cause for alarm."

Baltimore County released its overall scores yesterday, two weeks after the overall state scores.

The county will give individual schools their results in August, just before school opens. Because of the changes in school administration, Mr. Mazza said, he wanted to wait until all principals and assistant principals are in place, so they can use the results to prepare students for next spring's tests.

Educators around the state have downplayed the low scores because the tests are designed to measure knowledge and skills that students are expected to master by the year 2000. The tests, which are given each spring to all third-, fifth- and eighth-graders in the state, measure competency in reading, mathematics, social studies and science.

They differ from traditional standardized tests in that they measure not only knowledge but also a student's ability to think and apply what he or she knows to real-life situations. Students often work together to solve problems and then must give not only an answer, but also a written explanation of how they got the answer.

For instance, students may be asked to draw graphs of their findings or complete maps after reading selected passages. They do not simply pick multiple-choice answers.

The tests began in 1991, but the 1992 results will be considered the baseline scores.

The tests were revised considerably between 1991 and 1992 and the scores cannot be compared, Mr. Mazza said.

The proposed standards are being studied and discussed at four public hearings beginning tomorrow. They are due to be adopted, in some form, in July.

Those standards call for 95 percent of the state's schools to have satisfactory ratings and 50 percent to have excellent ratings by 2000.

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