School officials express their disappointment with latest MSPAP test scores Student show slight decline

December 19, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

A detailed discussion of how each school in Anne Arundel County did on the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program tests has been delayed until mid-January, but school board members aren't waiting that long to express their unhappiness.

Overall, 47.1 percent of the county's students performed satisfactorily on the most recent tests, compared with 47.3 percent in the previous academic year.

"I'm sure it's no surprise to you that I'm not pleased with this year's MSPAP," board member Joseph Foster, last year's president, said at a board meeting late Wednesday. "Not to be moving forward at a consistent rate concerns me."

School Superintendent Carol S. Parham said she took exception to his disappointment in the scores, explaining that it is normal over time in testing -- as in dieting -- to reach a plateau. It's "quite to be expected," she said. Anne Arundel's school scores have edged up every year since 1993 until this year.

"We'd like to lose weight, but we always plateau after losing a certain number of pounds before we lose more," she said.

Board member Vaughn Brown was not impressed. "I'm disappointed that we're not at the top, and I'm going to continue to be disappointed until we get there."

Parham asked the board to make some positive comments so that more than negative comments would be reported in The Sun.

Board member Paul Rudolph said, "I want to congratulate the teachers and students for a job well-done and express my appreciation for their efforts in the performance of a very difficult task."

The board spent little time at its Wednesday meeting discussing the MSPAP tests, which are given each spring to third-, fifth- and eighth-grade students to measure how well they apply basic knowledge and skills to solve real-world problems.

Administrators have promised more thorough analysis in mid-January. So far, they have only digested the basics: The scores showed an overall drop of 0.2 percentage points from the 1995-1996 school year to the 1996-1997 school year, which Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Mann and Parham said was nothing to be upset by because every school plateaus.

Other educators have said that anything less than a three-percentage-point change -- either up or down -- is not statistically significant.

But the scores were troubling in other ways to school board members, who learned that only one-third of the county's elementary schools are meeting at least satisfactory standard on the tests.

And in 1997, only one school had 70 percent or more of its students meeting the satisfactory standard in eighth grade, 22 of the schools meeting satisfactory standards in fifth grade, and 16 met the standards for third grade. Anne Arundel has 127 schools -- 18 of them middle schools, 12 high schools and the rest elementaries.

The numbers show improvements since 1993 but did not impress the board.

In other action Wednesday, the board approved a school calendar that will put students in schools later in August and get them out earlier in June.

Teachers had pushed for a start to the school year at the end of August instead of about Aug. 24.

Parham, however, had recommended ending summer vacation on or about Aug. 24 -- a schedule similar to this year's. She had contended that if inclement weather forced closings, the school system could make up days without extending the school year to the end of June.

The school board rejected that proposal, however, voting 5-3 in favor of beginning the school year Aug. 31.

Pub Date: 12/19/97

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