Howard slips a little but regains No. 1 rank

Eight elementaries, five middle schools among tops in state

`We have to do better'

January 29, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Howard pupils' scores dipped slightly in last year's annual state achievement exams, but the county still did well enough to regain its first-place ranking in the state, edging out Calvert County by more than 5 points.

Eight Howard elementary schools were among the top 19 in the Baltimore area. Howard had five of the top 18 middle schools in the region .

Howard's performance reflects powerful demographics. The county has the highest household income in Maryland and is among the top 10 in the United States. Clarksville Elementary, at the crossroads of Howard's growing affluence, has gained an extraordinary 33.3 percent in test scores since 1993.

Some schools struggle

Still, Howard Superintendent John R. O'Rourke and the system's testing director, Leslie Wilson, said the county's first-place ranking doesn't mean as much to them as the 0.2 percent dip in scores and some county schools' continuing struggle.

"I'm trying to develop a thirst and a hunger for not being satisfied," O'Rourke said yesterday. "I'm pushing people to say, `This is not good enough. We have to do better.'"

Of the county's 55 elementary and middle schools, 23 posted test scores higher than those of the previous year, and 15 exceeded the state's goal of having 70 percent of pupils score satisfactorily on the tests.

Results released yesterday showed that an average of 61.2 percent of Howard's pupils scored at the satisfactory level on all six content areas of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, given to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders each spring.

Although Howard's score dropped from 61.4 percent in 2000, the county school system is the only one to score above 60 percent this year. Howard's scores had led the state from 1993 until three years ago, when Kent County, with eight schools, took the lead. Last year, Kent slid to third place.

"The scores in and of themselves are less important than how we use them," O'Rourke said. "How can we ask the right questions?"

No more `focus schools'

O'Rourke removed the label "focus school" from the county's lowest-performing schools to de-stigmatize them and reorganize management. But scores at many of those schools still are well below the state and county averages.

"We're concerned about that," O'Rourke said.

"We're going to have to work harder to meet those children's needs," Wilson said.

North Laurel's culturally and socioeconomically diverse Murray Hill Middle School had been struggling since it opened five years ago. Its 1998 composite score of 43.1 wasn't as disappointing as the next year's 7.5 point drop.

But the school has reported nearly a 17-point jump over the past two years.

Murray Hill Principal Vincent Catania credits a schoolwide reading initiative implemented three years ago, a flourishing extended-day program, a committed staff and a structured plan to deal with high mobility.

"I have a very talented staff dedicated to the academic success of each student," Catania said. "It's very important to be consistent each year as we bring in new teachers. We're very methodic with bringing them on board with our strategies. ... I feel we're on the road of continuous improvement."

Howard County elementary schools

This table shows composite index scores for Howard 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 61.2 61.4 59.3 60.1 57.6 56.9 56.0 5.2

Atholton 59.4 70.7 63.8 73.4 58.3 63.8 60.4 -1.0

Bollman Bridge 50.5 47.6 52.9 54.0 60.9 58.9 49.6 0.9

Bryant Woods 51.3 45.8 46.8 62.4 57.0 69.0 55.6 -4.3

Bushy Park 74.1 75.3 68.5 72.0 67.3 65.8 64.8 9.3

Centennial Lane 74.6 80.2 76.4 79.5 71.0 65.1 65.1 9.5

Clarksville 75.2 69.1 73.9 70.2 69.6 59.3 55.0 20.2

Clemens Crossing 70.3 67.5 71.5 68.2 64.4 62.5 67.5 2.8

Dasher Green 38.8 41.5 44.8 56.5 44.1 45.6 42.2 -3.4

Deep Run 49.0 51.9 47.6 59.2 51.5 51.9 54.0 -5.0

Elkridge 47.8 49.7 42.7 52.6 42.6 39.8 42.7 5.1

Forest Ridge 50.3 55.5 54.7 64.6 66.7 60.6 67.0 -16.7

Fulton 67.7 64.3 61.1 63.0 NA NA NA NA

Gorman Crossing 65.8 59.6 66.7 NA NA NA NA NA

Guilford 37.0 42.3 41.5 49.9 51.5 45.3 48.8 -11.8

Hammond 70.1 67.9 72.3 74.7 71.8 63.5 68.6 1.5

Hollifield Station 71.0 73.2 66.8 70.8 NA NA NA NA

Ilchester 69.3 72.2 61.7 66.3 63.2 NA NA NA

Jeffers Hill 67.2 59.8 60.3 50.8 45.1 49.1 44.0 23.2

Laurel Woods 38.2 31.3 40.0 35.1 40.0 33.0 39.7 -1.5

Lisbon 60.5 56.8 63.0 61.1 53.9 57.6 49.7 10.8

Longfellow 57.1 67.3 61.5 57.3 51.9 56.0 51.3 5.8

Manor Woods 84.0 81.5 76.5 72.1 69.7 64.8 66.5 17.5

Northfield 77.4 75.6 74.9 74.3 70.4 69.5 60.4 17.0

Phelps Luck 44.5 40.7 43.6 48.5 56.1 37.3 45.7 -1.2

Pointers Run 73.8 79.6 71.3 71.6 67.5 62.8 64.3 9.5

Rockburn 58.7 63.1 54.2 56.9 54.9 59.4 55.2 3.5

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