Public schools in the Harford and Cecil counties scored higher overall on the 2004 Maryland School Assessment tests than the state.
Elementary schools in Harford County scored well, with 80 percent of the county's third-graders and all of Norrisville Elementary's pupils passing the test. Cecil County schools performed at about the statewide average. At the middle school level, Harford scored just above the state average while Cecil was below. Rising Sun Middle School's eighth grade math and reading scores were the best in Cecil.
High school students averaged scores of 78.8 in Harford County and 67.2 in Cecil, compared with the state average score of 66.
"It's all due to hard work ---- on the part of the teachers and students," said Donald R. Morrison, spokesman for Harford County public schools.
Morrison said that the county has consistently scored high in the past and that officials are not surprised by the most recent results.
"They just reaffirm what we already know," he said.
Morrison attributed the high MSA scores to a variety of factors, all related to improvements in school curriculum. He noted the School Improvement Plan, which aligns the material taught in school with information covered on the test.
Morrison said although the schools, on average, have improved, administrators have not analyzed the data to see what the scores could mean for individual schools. He added that the state is waiting for the schools' annual progress reports, which indicate the amount of progress each school has shown.
Karen Emery, the public information officer for Cecil County public schools, said she was pleased with the progress of students, which she attributed to "a strong countywide math program and a wide-ranging reading intervention program."
Emery said that Cecil had recently implemented the Houghton-Mifflin reading program in all elementary schools. Houghton-Mifflin is a comprehensive phonics-based program that officials hope will improve reading achievement.
Emery also pointed to parental support, before and after-school education programs, and staff development as reasons for the higher scores.
One school that improved notably from last year was Bainbridge Elementary School.
The school's scores rose 17.3 percentage points, the highest of Cecil County's 17 elementary schools. Principal John Turner attributes his school's success to "data-driven assessment of student needs."
Turner said school staff took quarterly measures of student performance on in-class exercises and adjusted school performance targets based upon the data. "Doing well on the MSA validates our choice of material was right," he said.