Pupils again tops on Md. test System is first to have 60% of students score satisfactory on exam

December 09, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Mary Maushard and Mike Bowler contributed to this article.

Howard County students have again achieved the state's highest systemwide score on the annual Maryland performance exam, becoming the first school system in Maryland to have 60 percent of children receive a satisfactory or higher mark.

Results released yesterday showed that 60.1 percent of Howard County students met the goal of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, a test given to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders in the spring. That overall score topped the 1997 percentage of 57.9 and the 1996 score of 56.9.

The test evaluates proficiency in reading, writing, language use, math, science and social studies. Statewide, 44.1 percent of students received a satisfactory score.

A school-by-school report on Howard County's results is to be presented to the school board tomorrow.

"Five years ago, [Howard] was the only school system at the 50-percent level," state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said yesterday in ceremonies at the Maryland State Department of Education headquarters in Baltimore. "We hope Howard will continue to serve as a model."

Said Howard County schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan: "I think a lot of credit goes to our students and to their parents and the families who really value education. Also, we have an outstanding corps of teachers who are doing an outstanding job and who understand what it takes to ensure that we have excellent teaching and learning."

Still, Howard's scores for the county's eighth-graders dropped in some subject areas for the third year in a row. Caplan said lower scores for middle-schoolers is a statewide problem, one that the school district is working to fix.

For example, reading scores among eighth-graders dropped this year to 34.2 percent performing satisfactorily from 37 percent last year.

"We already knew that reading at the middle-school level is an area where we need to put some energies in the future," Caplan said. "That comes as no surprise to us as an area where we hope to make some real strong gains in the future."

Superintendent Michael E. Hickey pointed out that specific reading instruction, once required only for sixth-graders, is now mandatory in all three middle grades, "but we don't expect that to pay off immediately -- probably down the road."

Only Harford County came close to Howard's score, with 58.3 percent of students getting at least a satisfactory score. Howard and Harford counties are the only school systems projected to come close to the state goal of 70 percent of students achieving satisfactorily by the year 2000.

Other school systems scoring above 50 percent this year were Carroll County (56.4 percent), Montgomery County (55.2), Kent County (54.7), Calvert County (53.8) and Frederick County (53.1).

While the news was good countywide, Centennial Lane Elementary School in Ellicott City had an extra reason to celebrate: The school's fifth-graders achieved excellent ratings

in all content areas on the MSPAP test. Centennial Lane joined Hollifield Station Elementary -- also in Ellicott City -- as the only two Howard County schools to achieve across-the-board satisfactory results at the third-grade level.

Principal Susan Goglia said she was "euphoric" about the news and planned to tell everyone at the end of the school day yesterday.

"We're excited not only because of what our fifth-graders did but because we achieved all the standards in third and fifth," she said. Goglia said the school has been involved in a three-year effort to push reading in subject areas ranging from art to science to physical education. "I believe that it was a schoolwide [and] community effort that made us really excel," Goglia said. "It was demonstrated this year in our scores."

In the meantime, Caplan said, the county will focus on moving forward in areas that need improvement. "Our concern is not so much staying on top as continuing to make progress," she said.

Pub Date: 12/09/98

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