Baltimore Co. improves state test scores

January 18, 1995|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County school scores on state-ordered performance tests improved last year, with elementary schools registering what school officials called "strong gains" and middle schools showing considerable improvement.

The officials praised the progress yesterday in releasing individual school results on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests at a news conference.

Still, only about a fifth of the elementary schools -- 20 out of 98 -- achieved the state standard of satisfactory on one or more of the six tests given to third- and fifth-graders each spring. But officials said 75 of those schools "showed significant overall improvement" over 1993. Last year, only nine schools achieved satisfactorily in even one subject.

Three of 26 middle schools achieved a satisfactory rating on any of the tests for eighth graders, but 23 of those schools "improved considerably" since 1993, they said. Last year, no middle school achieved satisfactorily in any subject.

To meet the standard, 70 percent of the students must achieve at or above satisfactory. A school meets the state's excellence standard, when 70 percent or more of its students achieve satisfactory and 25 percent or more are judged excellent. The state goal is to have all schools performing satisfactorily by 2000.

The often-controversial tests are designed to measure not only what a student knows, but also how well he can apply that knowledge.

"While state scores increased significantly, Baltimore County scores increased at a greater rate," said Superintendent Stuart Berger in a news conference at Reisterstown Elementary School. "We're really proud."

School officials are tapping the best-performing schools so strategies they are using in their classrooms can be passed to other schools.

Unlike traditional standardized tests, such as the Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT), in which someone is best and, conversely, someone is always at the bottom, the performance tests are designed so everyone eventually can achieve the minimum standard, Dr. Berger said.

Summit Park Elementary, near Pikesville, was one of only six schools in the state to have students in one grade score satisfactorily on every test -- a fifth-grade achievement. However, Summit Park's third-graders met the satisfactory standard only in social studies.

Fort Garrison Elementary did best on the tests. Its third-graders got satisfactory or excellent ratings in every subject but reading and the fifth-graders were satisfactory or excellent in all but reading and writing.

School officials highlighted Battle Grove Elementary, which showed the greatest gains among third-graders in the county. For instance, in 1993, almost 41 percent scored satisfactory in math; this year, 65.4 did so, and in science, 30.5 percent scored satisfactory last year and 71 percent did so this year.

Other elementary schools meeting the satisfactory standard are: Carroll Manor, Colgate, Fifth District, Glyndon, Hampton, Kingsville, Lutherville, Padonia, Pinewood, Pot Spring, Riderwood, Rodgers Forge, Seventh District, Sparks, Stoneleigh, Timonium and Warren.

Dumbarton Middle in Rodgers Forge scored highest on eighth-grade tests, with students scoring satisfactorily in math and science and rating excellent in writing and language usage. Catonsville and Cockeysville middle schools met the satisfactory standard in at least one subject.

The Maryland School Performance Program also sets school standards for attendance, dropout and promotion rates and, for secondary schools, performance on the functional tests in reading, math, writing and citizenship.

The county rated excellent or satisfactory in 10 of 13 categories this year. The county schools did not meet the high school attendance standard nor did enough ninth grade students pass writing and citizenship tests to meet the state standard.

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