City's students lag in new state tests Tough standards to take effect in '96

June 16, 1993|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Staff Writer

Also in some editions, a story on city students' scores on statewide performance tests should have said that 45.9 percent of fifth-graders statewide scored "satisfactory" or "excellent" on the math test.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Baltimore schools have a long way to go in meeting ambitious state standards for student performance, according to a battery of 1992 test results released yesterday.

The new state tests, which measure how well students use what they learn in the classroom, are a key part of the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program, intended to hold individual schools accountable for student performance.


By the year 1996, schools throughout the state must meet the tough, new state standards -- and Baltimore isn't the only school district with room for improvement.

In 1992, only about 30 percent of students statewide achieved a "satisfactory" level on the MSPAP tests, and less than 3 percent posted an "excellent" level of performance, as measured by proposed Department of Education standards.

Baltimore's third-, fifth- and eighth-graders lagged well behind those statewide averages in all four categories measured by the state: reading, mathematics, social studies and science.

In fifth-grade mathematics, for example, 22.4 percent of city test-takers scored at the proposed "satisfactory" or "excellent" levels, the best for any grade level and subject area in the city.

By contrast, 45.9 of fifth-graders statewide scored "satisfactory" or "excellent" on the statewide tests.

In some categories, the city is even further behind.

In eighth-grade science, for example, only 5.9 percent of city test-takers scored "satisfactory" or above, compared with 30.5 percent of eighth-graders statewide.

City school officials concede they have their work cut out for them, but they note that many students already are meeting the state standards.

"The standards and those assessments are set for the year 2000," said Dr. Maurice B. Howard, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction. "The results indicate that Baltimore City has a long way to go. It helps to justify the hard work we put into curriculum changes."

But in a separate statement issued yesterday, the city school system played up some positive indicators in the test results, saying they "indicate that some city school students are already demonstrating high-level thinking skills."

That statement noted that about one in five third-graders were classed as satisfactory or above in social studies, and emphasized the relatively high performance of fifth-graders in mathematics.

The state tests, first given in 1991, are far different from traditional standardized tests, and require students to actually apply the information they have learned in class, solving problems and sometimes working in groups.

The 1992 test results are based on five performance levels, with five as the lowest and one as the highest. Under the state's proposed standards, levels three and up are considered "satisfactory"; levels two and one are considered "excellent."

The proposed standards would rank schools as "satisfactory" if 70 percent of their students score in level three or above.

Those same schools would be ranked as "excellent" if 25 percent of their students score at levels two or one.

School officials around the state have downplayed this year's low test scores, saying that the tests are measuring the first stages of a long-range program setting goals for the year 2000.

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