Further study of MSPAP data raises school board's concerns Only Severna Park got excellent rating among middle schools

January 23, 1998|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County school board learned more details this week about how county students performed on state tests XTC last spring, and that raised new concerns: Only one of the county's 18 middle schools, Severna Middle, earned an excellent ranking.

School board member Janet Bury asked why eighth-graders haven't kept pace with the improvement achieved annually since 1993 by third- and fifth-graders taking the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program tests.

Administrators told her that curriculum and training advances completed at the elementary level are just beginning in middle schools. It could be three years before they register as better test scores in middle schools, they said.

First-graders lead

Since 1993, fifth-graders have done best, eighth-graders the worst on the exam, according to data given to the eight-member school board.

The number of county schools with test performances considered satisfactory or excellent has increased every year for the past five years. And the county is one of three large systems this year, along with Baltimore and Montgomery counties, with composite performances above the state average.

Test results have not risen significantly in Anne Arundel, however, since 1994-1995. And, as calculated by the state, 6 percent of the county's 18 middle schools had eighth-graders performing at the excellent level this spring. That translates into one school.

"You should be proud of your data," said Thomas W. Rhoades, the director of program planning for Anne Arundel County schools. "It shows continuous progress over a long period of time, and one can't help but like that."

He and Nancy Mann, assistant superintendent in charge of instruction, attributed elementary school scores to school improvement plans that included extensive teacher training in techniques aimed at getting students to perform better in their classwork and on tests.

Bury noted that "the train [of progress] is moving forward, and she asked, "Is there any reason why, when they get to middle school, the train goes to a screeching halt?"

Mann and Rhoades said that middle schools have been working on staff development since last school year but that improvements had not been seen. "Those middle school teachers really need an opportunity to be trained," Rhoades said.

Board member Joseph Foster asked how long that would take. "I would say three to four years to really do in-depth training, but it depends on how much funding we have for staff development," Mann said.

According to school system test data, fewer than a fifth of schools are performing at the satisfactory level on average, and 14 percent are performing at the excellent level.

How they're rated

For a school to be rated satisfactory, at least 70 percent of its students must score in the top three performance levels. To be rated excellent, 70 percent must score in the top three levels and at least 25 percent must be in the top two.

The MSPAP tests are given in reading, writing, language, math and science to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders each spring.

In late December, school officials had begun to tabulate the results from the 1996-1997 school year and had given the board preliminary data. Until the school board meeting in the auditorium of Old Mill Senior High in Millersville on Wednesday night, however, there were thousands of numbers school officials had not processed sufficiently to report in detail.

Pub Date: 1/23/98

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