County students top state average

February 17, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County schools are moving closer to the goals of the most elaborate and ambitious of state testing programs, the Maryland School Performance and Assessment Program.

"We feel good about the results," said Judith Backes, testing supervisor for the schools.

On both ends, Carroll students did better than the state average: more students making it into the highest of five levels and fewer in the lowest of levels.

While many of the county's 19 elementary schools, such as Spring Garden and Carrolltowne, had more than half their students doing at least satisfactorily on the tests, other schools have only about one-fourth of their students doing that well.

The state goal is to have 70 percent of students in each school scoring satisfactory or better by 1996, and 95 percent of students scoring that well by 2000.

Dr. Backes said the scores are one factor that teachers and administrators in each school will use to set a plan for improvement, and some schools will need more help

than others.

Still, she said, she believes that all the schools eventually can reach the state goal, although perhaps not all of them by 2000.

"I believe in the concept that all students can learn, and the state has that expectation," Dr. Backes said.

"You have to believe that all kids can learn; otherwise you write off a whole segment of the population."

The tests don't provide individual scores for students, none of whom takes the whole test.

The program instead is supposed to measure how well a school is teaching math, reading, science and social studies.

Children in third, fifth and eighth grades take the tests, commonly called the CRTs for "criterion reference tests."

This week's results are for testing done in May 1993.

That no school in the county met all the standards in all subject areas was not discouraging, Dr. Backes said, because the standards are deliberately set high by the state as a goal for

2000.

Very few schools in the state met the standards in all areas, said Ronald Peiffer, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education.

He said he did not yet have the number of schools or their names. Data are still being collected, he said.

In Carroll County, one school has met the standard in one subject area and grade level.

At Spring Garden Elementary, 71 percent of fifth-graders scored at satisfactory or better in math.

Countywide, Carroll schools made a better showing in fifth-grade math than in other areas.

In addition to Spring Garden, another 10 of the 19 elementaries scored satisfactory or better for fifth-grade math.

In third grade, four Carroll elementaries -- Carrolltowne, Mechanicsville, Westminster and Eldersburg -- had at least half their students score satisfactory or better in at least one subject area.

In eighth grade, five of Carroll's seven middle schools had at least half their students meet that standard, scoring satisfactory or better in at least one subject.

Dr. Backes said school administrators and teachers are just beginning to get the results to make use of them.

School improvement teams in each building will analyze the information along with other testing programs, such as the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.

"We have a lot to learn not only on how to write these tests, but also how to interpret these tests," Dr. Backes said.

Dorothy Mangle, supervisor of elementary education, said schools will get more detailed information later.

In math, teachers can learn how their students did in specific categories, such as estimation, measurement or problem-solving.

The "CRTs" require students to apply knowledge to answer questions. For example, a math problem asks students to arrange 36 small square tables to seat exactly 20 people, and to map out the possibilities on graph paper.

Instead of filling in little bubbles with No. 2 pencils, children often work together in groups the way they might during class, then go back to their test booklets to answer questions about the task.

Many of the questions ask students to explain their answers, and the explanations are scored for clear communication.

One answer might get a double score, such as for social studies and reading.

Mrs. Mangle yesterday guessed that Spring Garden's strong showing in fifth-grade math could be related to one of the fifth-grade teachers, Isabella Litchka, who is active at the state level in the school assessment and improvement program.

"I think she has had an impact across that grade level," by collaborating with fellow fifth-grade teachers at the school, Mrs. Mangle said.

Mr. Peiffer said schools could get more detailed information Mrs. Mangle is awaiting within two weeks.

"Carroll County typically has done better than many of the other school systems on our MSPAP," said Mr. Peiffer.

"I haven't seen a county-by-county breakout, [but] based on their track record, we would not be surprised to find they did very well."

Howard County

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