Students perform better in 1992-93, but blacks lag

July 25, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Howard County students fared a little better in state functional tests this past school year, but black students still lagged behind in all areas, especially math.

All students are required to pass state functional tests in reading, writing, math and citizenship to graduate from high school.

Students take the tests for the first time in ninth grade and may take them again until they pass. Except for the citizenship portion, the tests measure basic skills that students should have mastered by the sixth or seventh grade.

Close to 98 percent of the ninth-graders who took the reading test during the 1992-1993 school year passed. That tied last year's record for the highest score since the test first was given in the mid 1980s.

Nearly 92 percent of the ninth-graders passed the citizenship test, up about 1 percentage point from the previous year; 96 percent passed the writing test, up almost 2 points; and 81 percent passed the math test, up nearly 2 points.

"We're making progress and holding our own," said Dr. Leslie Walker-Bartnick, schools' testing supervisor. "We still have to make progress on students who aren't passing the tests."

Black students did not do nearly as well as their counterparts on two tests. In the math test, close to 58 percent of black ninth-graders passed, compared with 88 percent of Asian-American ninth-graders and 86 percent of white ninth-graders. In the citizenship test, almost 80 percent of blacks passed, compared with 92 percent of Asian-Americans and 94 percent of whites.

Black students also scored lowest in the reading and writing tests, but the differences ranged from less than 1 percentage point to almost 3 percentage points, depending on the comparison group.

School officials are seeking ways to help blacks and other students perform better.

"It's not just an African-American issue," said Dr. Walker-Bartnick. "For the most part, these are students who just don't have the basics from elementary school."

In the math test, students are having problems with numbers and fractions as well as problem solving. School officials lay part of the blame for the lower scores on some of the test material involving the metric system. Though students learn the metric system in school, they are more familiar with the traditional system of feet, inches, pints and gallons.

"Students have a very difficult time relating to the metric system because it's not part of their daily lives," Dr. Walker-Bartnick said.

Among high schools, Centennial ranked highest in the math test, with 93 percent of ninth-graders passing. Mount Hebron ranked second highest, with 86 percent. Howard ranked lowest, with about 71 percent, and Wilde Lake ranked second lowest, with about 73 percent passing.

Beginning this fall, students will take the test for the first time in the seventh grade. School officials said the change is being made to give students more chances to pass the test.

Students are also expected to score better at the seventh-grade level because much of the test material is learned in sixth grade, school officials said. The students should forget less of that material one year later than they will have forgotten by ninth grade, they said.

High school teachers had spent the first six to eight weeks of school reviewing test material, Dr. Walker-Bartnick said. "That now will hopefully not be necessary," she said.

STATE FUNCTIONAL TEST RESULTS

The percentage of ninth-graders who passed the state functional tests

School .. .. Reading .. .. Math .. .. Citizenship .. .. .. .. Writing

Atholton .. .. 97.0 .. .. 84.6 .. .. .. .. 93.0 .. .. .. .. ... 95.4

Centennial ... 98.8 .. ... 93.1 .. .. .. .. 96.1 .. .. .. .. ... 98.6

Glenelg .. ... 98.4 .. ... 84.2 .. .. .. .. 94.0 .. .. .. .. ... 95.5

Hammond .. ... 99.2 .. ... 75.7 .. .. .. .. 93.5 .. .. .. .. ... 95.2

Howard .. .. . 96.4 .. ... 70.8 .. .. .. .. 84.7 .. .. .. .. ... 96.3

Mount Hebron . 96.9 .. ... 86.3 .. .. .. .. 95.1 .. .. .. .. ... 97.2

Oakland Mills . 98.6 .. .. 77.9 .. .. .. .. 90.7 .. .. .. .. ... 85.8

Wilde Lake ... 99.1 .. ... 72.5 .. .. .. .. 83.1 .. .. .. .. ... 93.4

County .. .. . 97.9 .. ... 81.0 .. .. .. .. 91.6 .. .. .. .. ... 96.1

Source: Howard County Public Schools

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