Report Card

Arundel students score well overall on statewide tests

Most meet MSA marks, but 6 schools fall short of state progress goals

Anne Arundel County

Maryland Schools Asssessment

September 15, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County

A majority of students in Anne Arundel County posted strong gains on High School Assessment scores released by the state yesterday, mirroring countywide results at every grade level on a battery of tests given to children to comply with national testing requirements.

But a handful of schools - four high schools and two middle schools - fell short of statewide progress goals for a second year on Maryland School Assessment exams, as well as on their graduation and attendance rates. Those schools will join eight others in getting additional monitoring by the state.

"These are areas that certainly have been flagged that we need to be concerned about, and we are concerned about them," said county Superintendent Eric J. Smith. "But they are of a very technical nature sometimes involving very small numbers of children.

"The good news is we have the faculty to make it happen and the students to step up to the challenge," he added.

According to data also released yesterday by the state Education Department, a greater proportion of Anne Arundel's fourth-, sixth- and seventh-graders scored at the advanced or proficient levels on the Maryland School Assessment tests than did children across the state. Arundel 10th-graders outperformed their counterparts on the MSA's geometry component as well.

The results - comparable to those released in June for third-, fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders - will serve as a baseline to judge a school's performance in the 2004-2005 school year under testing mandates established by the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Based on the federal criteria, children in special education classes at North County and Old Mill high schools and Brooklyn Park and Marley middle schools did not meet statewide progress goals on either the MSA's reading or mathematics tests. Of the 342 10th-graders tested at Annapolis High, 15 students with limited English ability also missed targets.

In addition, graduation rates at North County and Annapolis hovered around 75 percent - lower than the state goal of 80.99 percent. Glen Burnie Evening High - which offers two classes each semester - also failed to meet goals based on graduation rate.

As a result, these schools must develop improvement plans to enhance the performance of children, including minorities or those who receive special services. The children in all of these categories must meet "adequate yearly progress" targets for two consecutive years to leave the school improvement list.

Smith had mixed feelings about the label of "needing improvement."

"I think it is good - it reinforces what No Child Left Behind is all about - but I'm concerned sometimes that the label might overshadow all the hard work that's going on in those schools," Smith said.

The school system is investigating to see whether it should appeal the label for North County and Annapolis high schools based on attendance and other figures, said Jonathan Brice, a schools spokesman.

On the MSA geometry test, 63.7 percent of all Anne Arundel students earned proficient- or advanced-level scores, compared with 48 percent statewide. Less than half of county students reached that goal in 2003.

But the performance of black students continues to lag behind that of their white and Asian classmates. Only 37.3 percent of African-Americans achieved advanced or proficient levels on the test, whereas more than twice that percentage of Asian students and 68.3 percent of white students reached that level. "In general our disparity is either shrinking or showing movement in a positive direction for all subgroups, but it still is unacceptably too large," Smith said.

Overall, Anne Arundel students made great leaps on the high school algebra and biology assessments. Nearly a third more students than last year met standards set by the state on both the tests - 72 percent on the algebra exam and 74.6 percent for biology. "It's certainly a strong indication that our high schools are moving in the right direction," Smith said.

Severna Park High School, for example, had the state's second-highest percentage of students meeting the test's standards.

"Only second?" Principal Will Myers jokingly asked upon hearing his school's rank. "We were shooting for number one."

Along with the English and government exams, the high school assessments will be used to determine graduation eligibility starting this year.

On those exams, Anne Arundel students ranked slightly below the Maryland average, although more students achieved the state standard set this year - 51.5 percent on the English exam and 64.9 for government.

"Those are the numbers we're really going to be focusing in on," Smith said. "We have a very intense effort around English and language arts at the high schools. Certainly that's one of the core areas that young people need to gain proficiency in, in order to succeed in life."

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