Students accomplish gains in almost every test category

Scores rise across the board except in sixth-grade reading

Baltimore County

Maryland School Assessment

June 08, 2005|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Educators at Deer Park Elementary School didn't do much that was different this year, just kept training teachers, encouraging parent involvement and giving extra help to the kids who need it.

At Powhatan Elementary, much changed, as the principal tackled low performance in math by incorporating the subject into everything children do.

Both approaches led to significantly improved scores on the state's annual standardized tests, the Maryland School Assessment tests.

Results released yesterday showed Baltimore County schools improved in every area tested - reading and math in grades three through eight - except sixth-grade reading, where the decline was negligible. The county's African-American students, special education students and students who receive free or reduced-price lunch because of family income all improved.

Superintendent Joe A. Hairston attributed the gains to schools staying the course. "It is good news, but more important it is consistent news," he said.

The county's scores beat state averages in every area except sixth-grade math. And like school districts around the state, its elementary schools scored much higher than its middle schools. Just over half of county eighth-graders, 53 percent, passed the math test.

The state will use the test scores to calculate whether schools have made "adequate yearly progress," as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

As in previous years, Baltimore County was home to some of the state's top performers. Carroll Manor, Riderwood and Summit Park elementaries all had at least one test where 100 percent of students passed.

"We're really proud this year because we have a more diverse population than we've ever had," said Summit Park Principal Diane L. Richmond. The Pikesville school has enrolled students from low-performing schools eligible under No Child Left Behind. It had a perfect score in third- and fourth-grade reading and third-grade math.

At Powhatan Elementary, new approaches seemed to pay off.

"When I looked at the math scores last year, I said, `We're going to change this,'" said Yasmin R. Stokes, principal of the Woodlawn-area school, which receives extra federal money because it serves a large number of children from low-income families.

She hired a math resource teacher who designed lessons. Teachers stayed after school to work with children who needed help in math, and children who needed an extra challenge. The staff posted math games on the walls and incorporated math into art, music, even gym.

While Powhatan's fourth-grade math scores declined, the pass rate in fifth-grade math jumped by nearly 40 percentage points, from 30 percent to 69 percent.

Other Baltimore County elementary schools that posted big gains include Arbutus, Victory Villa and Sandalwood, which last year was targeted by the state for failure to make adequate progress for two consecutive years.

At Victory Villa in Middle River, which also has many pupils from low-income families, Principal Kathleen Kendall East couldn't wait to share her school's scores at a PTA meeting.

"We were down there whooping and hollering and hugging," she said. Nevertheless, she added, "It's only one piece of information. If our scores hadn't improved that drastically, I'd still say our children are achieving because I can see it on a daily basis."

Such was the attitude in Owings Mills at Deer Park Elementary, where two years ago, 43 percent of third-graders passed the MSA in reading. This year, 92 percent passed.

Penny Patrick, a third-grade teacher at the school, said parents were especially supportive this year, and the administration provided extra training to teachers. Still, she said, "We have lots of special things happening at our school, not just MSA."

Added Deer Park Principal Iris C. Steele: "Sure, we're ecstatic about the test scores but we're also ecstatic because our children are lifelong learners."

Sun staff writer Danny Jacobs contributed to this article.

Baltimore County Middle Schools

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

SIXTH GRADE SEVENTH GRADE EIGHTH GRADE

Reading Math Reading Math Reading Math

'05 '04 '05 '04 '05 '04 '05 '04 '05 '04 '03 '05 '04 '03

Baltimore Co. Schools 73.0 73.2 58.6 50.9 71.1 70.6 57.9 52.2 69.3 65.8 59.8 52.6 47.8 39.5

Arbutus 75.0 74.1 60.4 48.1 71.9 66.6 58.2 45.6 71.3 61.0 63.4 46.0 39.4 36.2

Catonsville 85.0 86.3 74.2 75.0 87.3 85.5 84.8 68.1 80.6 78.5 77.3 69.0 73.9 65.8

Cockeysville 88.6 88.7 78.2 75.6 84.6 89.1 79.8 73.5 85.1 84.4 79.2 74.6 69.8 71.1

Deep Creek 56.8 56.8 43.4 37.5 59.2 55.0 44.6 31.3 53.8 54.9 43.6 45.4 25.0 16.9

Deer Park 62.5 68.7 47.5 45.3 66.1 63.4 49.6 37.7 64.1 64.3 58.3 43.1 36.4 32.5

Dumbarton 84.8 87.1 75.3 74.1 84.9 85.5 82.1 81.8 80.0 74.8 67.3 81.2 73.6 66.3

Dundalk 56.7 58.5 45.2 29.5 60.5 56.4 45.7 33.0 61.3 51.2 48.0 26.6 28.3 19.1

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