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Students exceed statewide scores at all grades in recent tests

Harford County

Maryland School Assessment

September 15, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

Harford County students outperformed the statewide average at every grade level on the most recent battery of statewide tests, and school officials say the results released yesterday show the system is on track toward all students eventually meeting the state's standards.

"I'm thrilled because we have across-the-board improvements, with only a couple of exceptions," said Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas, who heads the 40,500-student system. "I think it shows the hard work of our teachers, who are doing everything to improve their daily classroom delivery."

Harford County high school students, in particular, scored well above the state standards on all four of the subject tests: biology, algebra, English and government. Harford students showed the greatest gains in biology, with 70.1 percent of them passing the test, compared with 59.4 percent last year and a state average of 60.9 percent.

Harford County tenth-graders also outperformed their peers statewide on the Maryland School Assessment geometry test. Countywide, 54.6 percent of sophomores reached the proficient or advanced levels, compared with 48 percent statewide.

The results were especially welcome, given the concerns raised by county school officials who in January expressed concern that more than half of the nearly 3,000 high school test-takers had failed the English competency test. This time, 61.1 percent passed.

One exception, Haas said, is the performance of African-American students, who continue to score at considerably lower levels than their Asian and white classmates.

Only 28.1 percent of African-Americans achieved advanced or proficient levels on the MSA geometry test, compared with 66.6 percent of Asian students and 59.1 percent of white students.

The same was true with the MSA reading and math exams for fourth-, sixth- and seventh-graders. The number of African-American students who met the state averages was significantly lower than white and Asian students.

"That's an area we've got to get better at addressing," Haas said. "It comes down to the classroom instruction issues and kids having different learning styles, which is where the challenge lies. We all know these kids are capable, but are we tapping into that?"

Graduation rates for the Harford Class of 2004 increased slightly, to 86.7 percent this year from 85.2 percent last year. But attendance rates for high school students dropped slightly to 92.5 percent.

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