Scores show gap for blacks But Howard students still performing better than national average

August 31, 1998|By Robert Little and Erika D. Peterman | Robert Little and Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Newly reported Howard County student test scores show a significant gap between black and white children, although average scores systemwide remain far above the national average.

Scores for second-, fourth-, sixth- and ninth-graders in the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills -- reading, language and math -- were 23 points above the national average and consistently in the top third in the nation. Second-graders scored in the top fifth nationwide for their language skills.

But average scores for African-American students were lower than the county average by 25 points or more -- not as low as in past reports, school board members said, but still evidence that new approaches are needed. The largest difference was in sixth-grade math, where white students scored in the 67th percentile while African-American students averaged 30th.

"I'm generally pleased with the results but I'm not satisfied with the results," said school board chairman Stephen C. Bounds.

Overall, the scores on the test, administered last spring, changed little from a year earlier. The most significant changes were among fourth-graders, whose average score dropped five points in math and four points in language and reading. Second-graders gained three points in language and dropped three in math. Sixth- and ninth-graders' scores changed very little.

Said school board member Sandra H. French: "We're doing well, but well is not good enough for us. We know there's an achievement gap among ethnic groups, and we're serious about closing that gap."

That gap closed slightly from past years with the scores reported Thursday to the school board, something French attributed to a 4-year-old initiative to develop new teaching techniques. Believing that pupils of different ethnic backgrounds might respond differently to various teaching methods, the school system has worked to vary its teaching approach in schools where pupil performance is low.

Bounds said that while minority students might be performing below the county average, their scores are better than the national average for minority students. Students should benefit from new intensive programs, such as Reading Recovery, which are designed to help young students improve their skills.

Reading Recovery is a one-on-one program designed to help first-graders who have difficulty with reading.

"I think it's going to be real interesting to see those second-graders two years from now. I think we're going to see substantial improvement," said Bounds, who added that he is especially concerned about reading. "Without that solid reading foundation, everything else is going to suffer for the rest of their school career. You've got to be able to read, even to deal with a math book."

French said the test scores will be used to identify schools that need extra help. Howard County School Superintendent Michael Hickey has proposed that schools be categorized in five tiers according to test scores, parent satisfaction and other factors, RTC so low-performance schools can be identified and singled out for help.

Howard's national ranking on skills tests

County pupils' average basic skills test scores in spring 1998, as a national percentile:

Grade .. .. ..Reading .. .. ..Language .. .. ..Math

Second .. .. .. . 70% .. .. .. ... 80% .. .. .. 73%

Fourth .. .. .. . 70 .. .. .. .. . 77 .. .. .. .72

Sixth .. .. .. .. 68 .. .. .. .. ..68 .. .. .. .63

Ninth .. .. .. .. 71 .. .. .. .. ..68 .. .. .. .71

Source: Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills, Howard County Board of Education

2nd-grade reading

Spring 1998 national reading percentile rankings of Howard County second-graders:

School .. .. .. .. .. Score

Atholton .. .. .. .. .. 69%

Bollman Bridge .. .. .. 71

Bryant Woods .. .. .. . 57

Bushy Park .. .. .. ... 76

Centennial Lane .. .. . 88

Clarksville .. .. .. .. 85

Clemens Crossing .. ... 74

Dasher Green .. .. .. . 59

Deep Run .. .. .. .. .. 69

Elkridge .. .. .. .. .. 57

Forest Ridge .. .. .. . 74

Fulton .. .. .. .. .. . 81

Guilford .. .. .. .. .. 56

Hammond .. .. .. .. ... 73

Hollifield Station .. . 69

Ilchester .. .. .. .. . 67

Jeffers Hill .. .. .. . 68

Laurel Woods .. .. .. . 49

Lisbon .. .. .. .. .. . 83

Longfellow .. .. .. ... 57

Manor Woods .. .. .. .. 81

Northfield .. .. .. ... 78

Phelps Luck .. .. .. .. 55

Pointers Run .. .. .. . 82

Rockburn .. .. .. .. .. 70

Running Brook .. .. ... 60

St. John's Lane .. .. . 67

Stevens Forest .. .. .. 58

Swansfield .. .. .. ... 58

Talbott Springs .. .. . 48

Thunder Hill .. .. .. . 82

Waterloo .. .. .. .. .. 77

Waverly .. .. .. .. ... 76

West Friendship .. .. . 75

Worthington .. .. .. .. 71

County Overall .. .. .. 70%

Source: Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills, Howard County Board of Education

Pub Date: 8/31/98

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