Arundel officials puzzled as MSPAP scores decline

Third-graders slip in all subjects

math down in all 3 grades

`Somewhat discouraging'

January 29, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County schools lost ground on state test scores released yesterday, with third-graders declining in all subject areas -- a discouraging sign officials were at a loss to explain.

The proportion of pupils performing satisfactorily on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Project fell about a point, to 46.6 percent, in the 2000-2001 school year.

The county remains above the state average, but educators had hoped for more significant gains given the emphasis schools have placed on the test. Scores fell in 12 of the 18 subject areas tested, with math scores down in all three grades tested.

"I have to be honest and tell you the results are somewhat discouraging," said interim Superintendent Kenneth P. Lawson, "and they're discouraging because it's very clear to me that teachers and principals are working very hard and attempting to implement practices that ought to lead to success.

"It's discouraging to try to keep up an effort to improve in the face of test results that don't seem to be responding."

Training, smaller classes

In an effort to improve performance on the state test, given in the spring to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, Anne Arundel has provided training for teachers and principals, and reduced class sizes in most first and second grades.

Also, the county began a reading program this year for sixth-graders, who now have two periods of reading instruction every day. Teachers have praised the program, which will expand to the seventh grade next year.

"We've exposed lots and lots of teachers to methodologies supposed to be successful," Lawson said. "In spite of all those efforts, we're still struggling to get our scores to rise."

Third-graders sag

This year, third-graders fell in all six subject areas, with declines of almost 5 percent in science and social studies. Math, reading and language-usage scores were down more than 5 percent from the highs reached in the mid-to-late 1990s. Writing scores were more than 10 points higher than in 1993.

More fifth-graders scored satisfactory in reading than ever before, and scores were also up in science and writing. But fifth-graders' scores declined in language usage, social studies and math, with math scores at an all-time low.

Eighth-graders performed better, improving their scores in four of the six subject areas, including all-time highs in writing and science. Math and social studies scores were down.

There were some bright spots. Fifth-graders at Shipley's Choice Elementary in Millersville posted the highest scores in the state in reading and science. The school also had the highest overall score in the county, with 81 percent of pupils scoring satisfactory.

Principal Susan Bachmann said her teachers blend practice with instruction in a way that engages children. Second- and third-graders built bogs on the school campus last year. Fourth-graders raised yellow perch, hatching 21 fish. And fifth-graders took samples of the Severn River throughout the year.

North Glen Elementary in Glen Burnie posted the largest gain among elementary schools, 14.4 points. The school offers after-school instruction for many pupils in math and reading.

Meade Middle up sharply

The largest gain among middle schools was at Meade Middle, where the overall score was up 13.3 points, to 48.8. The school's reading score was up almost 10 points.

Since Meade opened in 1997, the school has required pupils to take two daily periods of language arts, a strategy that is paying off, said Principal M. Jacques Smith.

Bodkin Elementary in Pasadena has closed a gender gap on test scores that has bedeviled schools statewide. The school has given reading assignments tailored to boys' interests, such as mysteries, and involved parents. Boys' reading scores have risen 40 points in the past few years.

Anne Arundel County elementary schools

This table shows composite index scores for Anne Arundel County elementary schools over the past seven years under the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. The composite is roughly equivalent to the percentage of students who scored at a satisfactory level on the MSPAP tests. The last column shows the percentage point change since 1995.

......................01....00....99....98....97....96....95....Chg

State Average 43.7 45.3 43.8 44.1 41.8 40.7 39.6 4.1

County Average 46.6 47.5 46.6 48.4 46.7 47.3 44.5 2.1

Annapolis 23.2 31.2 26.0 40.7 20.0 37.4 39.7 -16.5

Arnold 62.2 65.9 57.2 68.3 64.8 71.8 68.5 -6.3

Belle Grove 32.9 27.0 32.1 34.0 34.9 38.0 35.8 -2.9

Belvedere 59.7 59.4 62.6 59.1 57.0 54.6 57.0 2.7

Benfield 75.2 75.8 75.1 78.6 73.4 73.5 78.7 -3.5

Bodkin 77.9 79.1 82.5 57.5 59.2 58.0 55.1 22.8

Broadneck 67.2 69.9 58.1 68.5 62.6 63.7 69.4 -2.2

Brock Bridge 44.5 38.2 38.5 43.7 45.4 41.5 24.9 19.6

Brooklyn Park 29.6 34.0 30.1 36.1 36.8 39.6 34.3 -4.7

Cape St. Claire 56.1 59.1 54.0 59.5 55.5 54.0 53.8 2.3

Central 46.1 44.7 46.2 53.2 56.5 55.4 55.8 -9.7

Crofton 58.9 62.1 55.7 56.1 56.8 49.5 52.1 6.8

Crofton Meadows 55.3 57.8 51.7 56.2 55.7 56.3 53.4 1.9

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