3rd straight decline drops Harford to 4th place in state

Superintendent warned last year that scores might fall

`It's a sad thing'

January 29, 2002|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Harford County slipped from third to fourth place in statewide MSPAP rankings, a year after the county's schools superintendent warned that the system could face declines.

The county's overall performance on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program dropped for the third straight year last year, with 53.3 percent of the county's students meeting the state's satisfactory standard. That's down from 55.7 percent in 2000 and 56.3 percent the year before.

"It's a sad thing that we're at a plateau," said Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas said. "We want to keep going."

Haas said her comments a year ago were spurred by scheduling, staffing and funding issues that must be addressed by the school system, which ranks 23rd - next to last - among Maryland's jurisdictions in per-pupil spending.

Budget cut

The county's budget for staff development has been cut in half since 1997 as the proportion of teachers with less than five years' experience has risen to 40 percent. "We're not supporting [teachers] the way we should be," she said.

Programs to help struggling pupils also need rethinking, Haas said. "Every school in this county has kids who need extra help, and we don't have the structure necessary to provide that," she said.

Last year's results show that county eighth-graders rose to third place in the state - after slipping the previous year from first to fourth - despite flat or declining scores at seven of eight middle schools.

Fifth- and eighth-grade reading scores were flat, while third-grade reading results fell for the fourth year.

Harford pupils in grades two, four and six scored above the national average on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.

Two schools in the county's U.S. 40 corridor - schools that struggle with poverty and transient populations - were among the bright spots. Edgewood Elementary, with a composite score of 45.3 percent, posted gains in every content area. Magnolia Elementary, with the lowest scores in 2000, nearly doubled its third-grade reading score, to 26.4 percent.

Among third-graders, Ring Factory Elementary, near Bel Air, posted the largest decline in reading scores, from 71.6 percent to 43.9 percent. Havre de Grace Elementary's third-grade reading score dropped from a county-high 72.7 percent to 45.5 percent.

`It's tough'

"Who knows what happened?" said David Cooper, the Ring Factory principal. "It's tough. I have confidence that we have good programs in place." Ring Factory fifth-graders' reading score soared 19.3 points.

Ellen Tracy, the Havre de Grace principal, said, "I've seen our children grow tremendously, but this year's scores don't reflect that whatsoever."

Jarrettsville Elementary, the county's best performer with a 69.8 percent overall score, dropped below 70 percent for the first time in three years. Principal Gerard Mack said his third-grade teachers expected lower scores.

"They just felt there were kids that didn't respond to the test," Mack said. The third-grade score fell 18.1 points.

At Halls Cross Roads, which had the lowest overall score in the county, 25.5 percent, Principal Gail Connolly was disappointed but optimistic. A reading program, full-day kindergarten and other intervention efforts have begun.

"We're hopeful that we will be seeing the results in the coming years," she said.

Harford County elementary schools

This table shows composite index scores for Harford 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 53.3 55.7 56.3 58.3 53.5 52.2 50.9 2.4

Abingdon 52.4 57.1 63.4 70.6 67.9 50.3 49.2 3.2

Bakerfield 46.8 53.5 53.9 54.3 53.1 48.7 49.6 -2.8

Bel Air 63.0 60.9 62.9 63.5 52.7 63.5 50.5 12.5

Church Creek 42.1 41.3 45.6 47.6 51.4 40.4 34.4 7.7

Churchville 46.3 55.5 53.5 66.6 55.5 64.2 47.4 -1.1

Darlington 45.1 59.6 56.4 52.0 51.7 57.3 22.0 23.1

Deerfield 27.6 38.0 39.7 36.5 39.7 30.9 31.8 -4.2

Dublin 44.4 48.6 50.7 65.4 48.7 56.0 52.4 -8.0

Edgewood 45.3 31.2 42.5 37.2 40.7 42.4 42.4 2.9

Emmorton 59.5 65.4 61.8 67.9 64.3 62.3 57.2 2.3

Forest Hill 61.5 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

Forest Lakes 66.0 61.3 63.8 62.5 65.8 58.4 59.0 7.0

Fountain Green 67.6 59.4 70.2 65.2 63.1 60.7 58.9 8.7

Halls Cross Roads 25.5 32.7 40.6 34.8 35.8 36.3 35.7 -10.2

Havre De Grace 44.3 49.6 52.2 45.9 42.2 30.0 28.7 15.6

Hickory 55.8 62.8 53.0 62.5 57.4 53.1 55.1 0.7

Homestead/Wakefld 60.7 59.8 65.4 67.2 66.6 52.7 57.0 3.7

Jarrettsville 69.8 75.6 73.9 71.3 65.7 61.1 58.3 11.5

Joppatowne 32.9 43.9 40.9 56.5 41.8 39.8 40.5 -7.6

Lisby/Hillsdale 32.0 40.5 41.0 47.8 39.6 35.2 38.1 -6.1

Magnolia 30.7 28.7 34.1 42.2 29.9 34.0 29.4 1.3

Meadowvale 46.1 50.3 53.8 66.0 55.3 59.9 41.2 4.9

Norrisville 56.0 64.1 47.7 67.9 61.3 52.7 75.2 -19.2

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