School system sets the bar high and exceeds expectations on MSA

Black, Hispanic pupils make big gains in reading and math

Howard County

Maryland School Assessment

June 08, 2005|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Howard County's African-American and Hispanic pupils have made strong gains in closing the gap in math and reading performance compared with their elementary and middle school peers over the last three years, according to test results released by state and county officials yesterday.

Overall, Howard pupils once again exceeded statewide averages - and met the school system's more rigorous benchmark - on the Maryland School Assessments given this spring in grades three through eight.

Reading scores were particularly strong at each grade level - the percentage of pupils passing ranged from 85 percent to 92 percent.

Although math scores generally were weaker, a pattern that was true statewide, between 72 percent and 88 percent of Howard pupils in various grades surpassed the basic skill level in math.

And taken as a group, minority pupils in third, fifth and eighth grades posted their best performance ever, school officials said - for the first time, the combined scores of minority pupils in reading or math exceeded 70 percent.

The results are "nothing short of remarkable," said Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin. State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, who also recognized the feat, called Howard County's scores "quite stunning."

Scores for black and Hispanic third-, fifth- and eighth-graders in reading and math have gone up 10 percentage points or more within a three-year period. (Tests for fourth, sixth and seventh grades were given last year for the first time.)

"We could honestly say we are recognizing the achievement gap and diligently working to close it," Cousin said.

School officials emphasized the three-year trend of improvement. On a year-to-year basis, the reading score for African-American third-graders dipped a little more than 2 percentage points, to 74.5 percent from 76.9 percent.

The percentage of Hispanic third-graders passing the reading test dropped this year, to 75.5 percent from 77.3 percent.

However, a three-year trend shows that the score has jumped nearly 25 percentage points since 2003.

The fluctuation in scores this year could be attributed to the varying number of pupils taking the test, and the three-year data represents a more accurate representation of progress, said Terry Alban, the school system's director of student assessment.

Cousin noted that more work needs to be done with pupils with limited English skills, special education needs and those who receive free or reduced-price lunches, a measure of poverty used by school systems.

Third-, fifth- and eighth-grade pupils in those categories fall below the 70 percent marker.

School administrators made a note of considerable strides made by the county's struggling schools, which receive extra resources.

All seven elementary schools, four middle schools and a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school exceeded statewide averages in math and reading, and most met or exceeded the county's goal of having 70 percent of pupils performing at the proficient level in both subject areas.

"We set the high standards because we know our staff and students can meet them," Cousin said.

School officials attributed the school system's progress to such factors as parental and community involvement; the "school improvement unit," which helps schools identified for extra help, and reading and math support teachers at 10 elementary schools.

"These test scores give us one sliver of validation of what we're all about," said Sandra Erickson, the school system's chief administrative and academic officer.

Howard Elementary

This table shows the total percentage of Howard County elementary school pupils who scored at advanced or proficient levels in tests administered as part of the Maryland School Assessment.

THIRD GRADE FOURTH GRADE FIFTH GRADE

Reading - Math Reading - Math Reading - Math

'05/'04/'03 ..'05/'04/'03 '05 /'04 ...'05 /'04 '05 /'04/ '03 ...'05 / '04 /'03

Howard Schools 88.0/ 88.0 / 79.4 86.3/ 87.0/ 82.9 92.3 / 90.7 88.2 / 84.5 88.5 / 86.5 / 84.1 85.1 / 83.2 / 78.8

Atholton 88.3, 83.2, 72.1 81.6,82.3,79.6 86.7, 89.9, 86.7 76.4 84.9 89.3 86.1 80.3 81.7 80.6

Bellows Spring 91.9 91.7 NA 90.4 91.8 NA 97.6 94.7 97.7 86.8 89.8 85.4 NA 88.9 77.5 NA

Bollman Bridge 77.9 79.1 68.1 71.5 77.9 75.5 86.9 83.6 82.4 76.7 77.8 81.8 76.6 83.9 79.1 70.4

Bryant Woods 67.2 80.4 48.0 74.1 82.4 53.9 82.0 78.4 80.0 60.8 76.4 69.8 80.7 61.8 65.4 75.8

Bushy Park 95.3 94.6 87.7 95.4 93.8 95.2 97.6 96.4 94.7 94.6 93.2 93.1 95.0 91.6 90.5 86.6

Centennial Lane 99.0 94.9 95.5 99.1 90.5 93.6 98.3 99.1 97.4 95.5 99.1 97.4 96.8 96.6 95.7 94.3

Clarksville 94.7 97.6 86.8 92.9 97.6 88.6 97.8 98.4 97.8 94.4 97.7 94.1 93.5 95.4 93.3 88.6

Clemens Crossing 89.5 90.9 89.2 87.2 87.5 89.2 93.7 91.9 90.5 86.5 92.4 86.3 89.0 84.9 81.6 83.4

Deep Run 83.2 76.9 64.4 80.0 71.5 68.3 84.8 87.9 77.1 75.8 80.6 69.6 69.0 73.0 67.0 61.1

Elkridge 86.3 83.0 84.4 79.9 75.4 83.6 87.3 92.1 74.8 80.1 91.3 81.0 81.0 83.5 77.6 68.7

Forest Ridge 87.7 91.7 66.4 91.9 91.5 76.5 96.3 82.7 87.3 73.1 82.0 82.7 80.2 70.3 74.6 73.8

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