Students in suburban counties fare well on state test Harford's superintendent credits staff

Howard's results top all jurisdictions MARYLAND SCHOOLS

November 16, 1993|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Staff Writer

An upbeat school superintendent announced yesterday that Harford County met 11 of 13 criteria on the 1993 Maryland School Performance Report -- and gave the credit to a team effort by school employees.

"We are absolutely proud, extremely happy to report student progress," Superintendent Ray R. Keech told a small group gathered at Hall's Cross Roads Elementary School in Aberdeen to hear the fourth annual results.

Harford students achieved an excellent rating in seven categories and satisfactory in four areas. Last year, the school system met 10 of the 13 objectives, with two excellent and eight satisfactory ratings.

The criteria were set by the state Department of Education.

The tests measure basic skills in reading, writing, math and citizenship in high school; the rate of promotion in elementary schools; and the attendance rate for all grades. The goal is for schools to achieve a satisfactory rating in all categories by 1996.

Dr. Keech credited this year's improved scores in Harford to the team effort of school personnel, stressing the central role of teachers, "who make [success] happen in the classroom."

Even when the students failed to achieve a satisfactory rating, Dr. Keech was encouraged.

For instance, seventh- through 12th-graders did not meet the proposed attendance rate set in the report.

They scored 93.1 percent instead of the 94 percent required for satisfactory and 96 percent for excellence.

"The priority is academic achievement over attendance," Dr. Keech said, referring to the other positive test scores, adding, "We're on target."

The county also did not meet the dropout rate criterion. Dr. Keech pointed out that the county scored 3.26 percent, "a quarter percent from meeting the satisfactory goal." The state dropout rate was high -- 5.36 percent -- he said.

The report also included the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program for the second time and again none of the school systems in the state met the goals in reading, mathematics, science and social studies.

Donald R. Morrison, Harford County school spokesman, said that these tests require students to use a different kind of thinking. "Instead of rote memorization, these tests require more difficult problem-solving skills."

Mr. Morrison said county schools have individual improvement plans in place to help students improve these skills.

In another segment of the report card, called "norm-referenced assessment," county third- , fifth- and eighth-graders proved successful when compared with state and national scores on reading comprehension, language and mathematics.

The national norm is 50 percent, and county students were often 10 percent higher in their scores.

L Here is a look at how schools elsewhere in the region fared.

Carroll

Carroll County schools met standards in 12 of 13 categories, one less than last year. Superintendent R. Edward Shilling was neither surprised nor bothered.

The only category in which Carroll schools didn't meet the standard was attendance at the secondary level, a direct result of making up snow days in June instead of asking the state for a waiver. Several students did not attend that last week because of commitments to vacations and camps.

"I have no regrets about making that decision," Mr. Shilling said.

Of the 12 standards Carroll schools met, nine were at the "excellent," level, which is as high as any district scored, Mr. Shilling said.

He said the schools continue to be among the top performers in the state while spending below the state

average per pupil. Carroll spends $5,089 per student. Howard spends $6,695. Baltimore City spends $5,182. The state average is $5,823.

Anne Arundel

Anne Arundel County schools met statewide standards in 12 of 13 areas, two more than last year, according to the statewide report card issued yesterday.

The exception was the countywide dropout rate -- 3.76 percent for Anne Arundel schools compared to a minimum state standard of 3 percent.

The statewide standard for excellence is 1.25 percent.

Annual attendance rates slipped slightly -- falling to 95.5 percent for grades one to six, compared to 95.8 percent last year, and 94.2 percent for grades seven to 12, compared to 94.8 percent last year -- but remained within the minimum standard.

K? Thomas Twombly, president of the Anne Arundel school board,

noted that only six other jurisdictions met 12 out of 13 standards. "We're in the top one-third of the state," he said. "I'd say that means we're a good school system."

Howard

Howard County posted the best performance in Maryland on the state's annual school report card for the fourth year in a row, meeting all 13 standards.

The school system earned eight excellent and five satisfactory marks on the Maryland School Performance Program Report. And Howard posted the lowest high school dropout rate in the state, 1.65 percent, compared with the state average of 5.36 percent.

"I'm glad we were able to maintain our position," said Superintendent Michael E. Hickey. "I hope that underscores for the citizens in the county that their education dollars are being well-spent."

The county's black students still lagged behind their white and Asian counterparts in functional test scores, although they narrowed the gap this year.

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