Washington County students improve scores on MSPAP exams

December 08, 1998

MSPAP ratingsBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writers

Washington County schools posted gains for the fifth straight year in the test used to measure the skills of third-, fifth- and eighth-graders.

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Overall, 48.3 percent of county students in those grades received a satisfactory score on the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program tests, according to results released Tuesday. The statewide composite score was 44.1 percent.

The tests, given each May, require students to demonstrate proficiency in six academic areas: writing, language usage, science, reading, math and social studies.


The scores in Washington County and across the state remained far behind the goal of 70 percent that state educators have set for the year 2000. But local officials, noting the trend, said the results are encouraging.

"Today, not unlike previous years, we are celebrating Washington County's progress on MSPAP," Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. said at a news conference on Tuesday. "We are very, very proud of what we've done, where we've been and where we're going."

Assistant State Superintendent Ron Peiffer said the goals were tough, and state officials care more about schools showing steady progress than about hitting the targets.

Washington County, with a composite score that was better than the state average for the sixth straight year, ranks 13th out of 24 school systems in the state.

Since 1993, Washington County's score has jumped 16.4 points, the ninth-largest gain in the state.

State Department of Education officials highlighted Washington County as one of four school systems that have shown dramatic and steady improvement in MSPAP scores in each of the last six years, Peiffer said.

Peiffer said steady improvement is sometimes better than large improvements followed by lower scores.

"You sometimes wonder whether it shows solid improvement or whether people are into gimmicks," he said.

Washington County had one of the best-performing schools in the test.

Salem Avenue Elementary School, which was named a Blue Ribbon School of excellence last month, scored satisfactory or excellent in all six areas.

"One of our schools has achieved something many had thought impossible," Bartlett said.

Salem Avenue was one of 23 schools in the state where third-graders scored satisfactory or better in all six areas, Peiffer said.

"We need to get six excellents, and we believe we can do it," said Carol Corwell-Martin, a third-grade teacher at the school.

In addition to Salem Avenue, six schools received satisfactory scores in at least one of the areas: Smithsburg Elementary third grade; fifth grades at Boonsboro, Hancock, Old Forge and Paramount elementary schools; and eighth grade at Hancock Middle-Senior High School.

To meet satisfactory standards, at least 70 percent of a school's students must score a 3, 2 or 1 on the test. To meet excellent standards, at least 70 percent of the students must receive satisfactory marks, and at least 25 percent must score a 2 or a 1.

Old Forge Elementary School Principal JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown said her school has raised test scores by improving the curriculum, not by worrying about the test.

"It's just good instruction every day, and the test takes care of itself," she said.

related story: County students test scores rise

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