Baltimore County on `flat line'

For 4th straight year, little progress made on MSPAP scores

`You don't want to overreact'

January 29, 2002|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

For the fourth straight year -- an official trend, statistically speaking -- Baltimore County pupils failed to show significant improvement on Maryland's annual exams.

In the 2001 version of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, county pupils performed in the middle of the pack when compared with other school systems in the Baltimore area -- lower than Carroll, Harford and Howard counties and higher than Anne Arundel County and Baltimore. County pupils also exceeded the statewide average.

`Stable performance'

"It's pretty much a flat line this year," said Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston. "It's not a poor performance, but it's a stable performance."

Test results show that performance declined at more than half of Baltimore County's 102 elementary schools compared with scores on the 2000 exams. The achievement gap between white and black pupils widened in third- and fifth-grade reading, and narrowed slightly in eighth-grade reading, for which scores were poor for all pupils.

Third-grade reading scores dipped for the fourth consecutive year. After those scores dropped in 2000, the county purchased an elementary school reading series that was put into use in the fall.

There were some gains. Carroll Manor Elementary School in Baldwin had the highest composite score in the metropolitan area, and four county schools scored in the top 10. The county's second-, fourth- and sixth-graders scored above the national average on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, a national standardized test.

State officials are considering changing MSPAP, including the creation of a test that can provide scores for individual pupils instead of only schoolwide results, which have been used for a decade.

Carroll Manor Principal John H. Kroh thinks that's a good idea. "So much is invested in [MSPAP], I think parents would really like to see an individual score," he said.

A school is said to have met the state standard on the MSPAP when at least 70 percent of its pupils achieve a satisfactory score in a content area.

In 1993, the first year the tests were given, 10 county elementary schools and no middle schools met one or more of the standards. This year, 40 elementary schools and eight middle schools met one or more of the standards. Three elementary schools -- Sparks, Riderwood and Carroll Manor -- met all standards in third and fifth grade.

At Wellwood International Elementary in Pikesville, the composite score jumped more than 15 points, much to the delight of Principal Teresa H. Filbert, who has had to sit on the news while the state delayed the release of test results.

She was particularly pleased because Wellwood has many pupils for whom English is a second language. More of those pupils took the test last year.

Teachers to get hug

At Hawthorne Elementary in Middle River, where scores were up 13 points, Principal Barbara Clark said she would deliver results to the teachers personally "so I can give a little hug with them."

"They've got a good grasp of what's really being tested now," she said. "It is a valuable tool. It's truly what drives our instruction."

At Woodlawn Middle School, the only county school in danger of being taken over by the state, scores were higher than in 2000, but not enough to surpass 1993 levels.

Of the 15 other lowest-performing elementary and middle schools, all of which began receiving extra help this year in an attempt to improve pupils' achievement, scores rose at five, fell at six and didn't change significantly at four.

"Any given year, one school may jump up and one school may fall down. You don't want to overreact to one year," said Paul Mazza, the county's director of testing and pupil data.

As the state released last year's scores, schools were preparing for this year's exams, which will begin in April. That leaves little time to evaluate the data and make curriculum changes.

"If there's something we can tweak midstream, we will," said Karen Barnes, principal of Deer Park Middle School.

Baltimore County elementary schools

This table shows composite index scores for Baltimore 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 49.5 50.9 49.0 49.8 47.9 44.7 44.5 5.0

Arbutus 51.3 53.5 49.7 43.7 47.3 38.8 32.4 18.9

Baltimore Hlnds. 24.4 33.6 33.9 30.5 29.7 34.6 22.9 1.5

Battle Grove 36.3 37.3 39.3 35.0 49.7 32.5 45.1 -8.8

Bear Creek 58.4 53.8 46.3 42.5 40.7 36.0 29.6 28.8

Bedford 44.2 50.6 50.7 52.2 51.7 40.6 34.5 9.7

Berkshire 43.1 37.0 29.8 35.5 35.1 23.7 36.2 6.9

Carney 57.4 66.5 64.9 61.0 54.7 49.5 56.5 0.9

Carroll Manor 84.9 74.5 73.5 69.9 70.8 65.3 60.4 24.5

Catonsville 61.2 61.6 70.9 63.9 60.6 45.2 42.5 18.7

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