5th-graders ones to beat on state test They perform better on their exam than 3rd-graders on theirs

Spring Garden fares well

School officials try to figure out reason behind disparities

December 15, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The trend was obvious. When test results came out last week, third-graders statewide were left in the dust by their fifth grade schoolmates.

That is, a larger proportion of Maryland fifth-graders earned "satisfactory" scores on their Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test than the state's third-graders did on theirs.

Carroll County third-graders, however, fared a little better than their classmates statewide -- they didn't slip as much in science and social studies, and they posted their highest scores ever in reading, writing, math and language usage.

But more Carroll fifth-graders achieved satisfactory ratings than Carroll third-graders did in nearly every county school except Spring Garden.

The reason is unclear, said Dorothy Mangle, director of elementary education, but school staff will look at the possibilities, such as:

Are there specific skills that Carroll third grade teachers aren't teaching early enough or well enough? A more detailed report in January will show what kinds of questions students did worst on.

Are there certain children or groups of children who are doing poorly? The January breakout will show that, too, Mangle said.

Or is the MSPAP test just too difficult for third-graders?

"We're wondering if that is a factor," Mangle said. "The whole thinking behind MSPAP is you have children practice what they've learned by being able to integrate their math skills, their social studies skills and their writing skills, to do one problem.

"It does take time for a child at that level to be able to do that," Mangle said. "For some 8-year-olds, that's a lot of interpretive thinking. Some of those children are still thinking at a concrete level."

Nonetheless, it is possible for third-graders to do well on the MSPAP. At Spring Garden, third-graders met the rare mark of "excellent" on a test where other schools struggle for "satisfactory."

In the writing category, 70.2 percent of Spring Garden's third-graders scored satisfactory or better. And 30.2 percent of them scored at excellent (those students are included in the 70.2 percent figure).

Mangle said she has spoken with Principal Larry Bair about the school's third grade success. It's all conjecture at this point, but Mangle said the school benefits from teachers who have been there for five years, since the school opened, and who work cohesively.

Bair concurred.

"First of all, it takes a concerted effort that begins in kindergarten," Bair said. "We're no different from the other schools. You have to integrate everything you do so the child sees the same format every year."

For example, Bair said, in each grade level, students see the same charts that give them a structure for writing. They use the same editing symbols from year to year as they revise each writing assignment.

Bair echoes what educators across the state have said is the key to success on the MSPAP -- writing. Even in math questions, the right computation is not enough -- students are scored on whether they were able to explain in writing how they got their answers.

"They have to be able to express themselves," Bair said.

Some of the fluctuation goes unexplained. In the past, Spring Garden fifth-graders have twice met the standard of 70 percent or better in math but did not meet any of the standards this year.

Carroll County schools report card

The table shows school-by-school scores on tests given as part of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. The tests, developed by the state, are designed to measure how well students apply the lessons they have learned in school. The figures in the first 12 columns show the percentage of students who scored at a satisfactory level on each test. The last four columns, labeled CTBS, show how students performed on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, a traditional, nationally normed test designed to show overall academic achievement. The CTBS scores show how well students compared with a national sample with an average score of 50. So a score of 58.2 means that the students in that county, school or state, on average, performed better than 58.2 percent of students nationally.

THIRD GRADE RESULTS

Maryland

Reading, 1995 -- 34.0

Reading, 1996 -- 35.3

Writing, 1995 -- 39.3

Writing, 1996 -- 40.9

Lang., 1995 -- 43.0

Lang., 1996 -- 45.2

Math, 1995 -- 42.0

Math, 1996 -- 38.7

Science, 1995 -- 41.1

Science, 1996 -- 36.0

Social Studies, 1995 -- 38.0

Social Studies, 1996 -- 29.1

CTBS Reading, 1995 -- 53.5

CTBS Reading, 1996 -- NA

CTBS Math, 1995 -- 48.8

CTBS Math, 1996 -- NA

Carroll

Reading, 1995 -- 41.4

Reading, 1996 -- 46.7

Writing, 1995 -- 48.1

Writing, 1996 -- 52.3

Lang., 1995 -- 48.4

Lang., 1996 -- 49.5

Math, 1995 -- 51.9

Math, 1996 -- 52.6

Science, 1995 -- 53.8

Science, 1996 -- 51.7

Social Studies, 1995 -- 46.6

Social Studies, 1996 -- 41.8

CTBS Reading, 1995 -- 58.5

CTBS Reading, 1996 -- 59.0

CTBS Math, 1995 -- 66.2

CTBS Math, 1996 -- 62.9

Carrolltowne

Reading, 1995 -- 50.9

Reading, 1996 -- 61.5

Writing, 1995 -- 60.5

Writing, 1996 -- 60.5

Lang., 1995 -- 67.6

Lang., 1996 -- 58.1

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