Students improve on state testing

Harford joins trend of other systems, but 4 schools are struggling

Harford Education

October 23, 2005|By LIZ F. KAY | LIZ F. KAY,SUN REPORTER

Harford County students improved on statewide standardized tests last year, following a trend of better performance around Maryland.

However, four of the county's schools are struggling to address the needs of some children who did not reach annual targets on these exams.

The results of the math and reading Maryland School Assessments, offered in the spring, determine whether children have made "adequate progress" toward state goals as required under the federal No Child Left Behind act.

Different groups

State officials also examine the scores of children in different racial groups or those receiving services such as special education or subsidized lunches - an indicator of poverty - to determine whether all children are improving.

"Between now and 2013, we've got to find a way so that all kids succeed under [No Child Left Behind]," said Donald R. Morrison, a spokesman for Harford schools.

Last year, more than three-quarters of all third- through sixth- graders exceeded basic levels on the reading exam, and nearly two-thirds of them reached that level on the math test.

Performance of older middle-schoolers is improving more slowly. More than 70 percent of seventh-graders and eighth-graders reached advanced or proficient levels on the reading test - less than 5 percentage points fewer than last year. Similarly, slightly more than half of seventh- and eighth-graders exceeded basic levels on the math exam, up by 3 percentage points or fewer from last year.

But some groups of children at two schools did not post adequate gains.

Children in special education classes at Magnolia Elementary in Joppa did not meet state testing goals last spring, although they did so in 2004. As a result, the school is in "corrective action" and must provide a number of required interventions, Morrison said. "Our special ed department is working overtime to figure out ways we can help our special needs kids be successful on the MSA," he said.

Because Magnolia receives federal Title I funds to support children from low-income families, the school must offer tutoring at no cost to those who receive free or reduced-price lunch. Other children can transfer to higher-performing schools.

African-American and special education children at Edgewood Middle also did not meet state goals last year. Although special education children at Aberdeen and North Harford middle schools reached those levels last year, they must attain those scores for one more consecutive year to free themselves from additional scrutiny from the state.

Countywide, high school students scores on the High School Assessment tests slipped slightly last year - as much as 7 percentage points on the biology exam, for example. But some testing experts predict that scores will jump with this year's freshmen - the Class of 2009 - who will have to pass the three tests as well as an English examination to earn a high school diploma. Results of the English exam are expected later in the fall.

Geometry scores

Scores of students who took the geometry Maryland School Assessment at all grade levels improved by about 5 percentage points, with nearly two-thirds reaching advanced or proficient levels, but Maryland is phasing out the test next year.

More of Harford's high school seniors took the SATs last year than ever before - 1,564 students, or 59.2 percent. Cumulative mean scores increased 12 points to 1,032 out of 1,600 possible points on the math and verbal sections of the test.

liz.kay@baltsun.com

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