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Scores rise again

December 01, 2000

Scores rise again

By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Washington County public schools improved scores on the 1999-2000 Maryland School Performance Assessment Program for the seventh year in a row, jumping to sixth in the state from the eighth-place ranking it earned in 1998-1999.

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There are 24 school systems in the state.

Of the third-, fifth- and eighth-graders who took the test in May, 54.4 percent scored at or above the state's satisfactory level, up from 51 percent a year ago, according to statistics released by the Washington County Board of Education.

The county's score surpasses the state average of 45.3 percent of students who scored at or above satisfactory level.

Washington County is one of three school systems in the state, joining Queen Anne's and Wicomico counties, to increase scores in all eight years of the MSPAP program.

The composite score has risen 22.5 points since 1993.

"We're very pleased with the outcome," said Jan Keefer, supervisor of statistical assessment and testing.

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The county ranked first in the state in the percentage of eighth graders who performed on or above the state satisfactory level, with 68.2 percent. It ranked second in the state for fifth grade reading performance, with 58.1 percent scoring at least on the satisfactory level.

"I think it goes unsaid that we are doing very, very, well," said Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett at a press conference.

Bartlett also made it known that the school system has finally surpassed neighboring Frederick County on the MSPAP and now plans to take on Montgomery County.

"I think that we can not only compete with Frederick County, but I believe we can compete with Montgomery County," he said.

Frederick County Public Schools scored a 51, while Montgomery County ranked fourth in the state with an overall score of 55.4.

"W e are just a point away from knocking on Montgomery County's door, and we think we can do it," Deputy Superintendent Theresa Flak said.

The grading system is on a five-point scale. A score of 1, 2, or 3 is below satisfactory while 5 is considered to be excellent. Scores reflect the percentage of students who got a 4 or better.

The three grade levels increased their scores on 15 of the 18 sections on the MSPAP tests, most of which scored their highest percentages ever, according to statistics. Each grade is tested in six categories: reading, writing, language usage, mathematics, science and social studies.

For example, 58.1 percent of fifth-graders scored at or above satisfactory level, up 6.3 points from the 49.8 percentage in 1998. Also, 63.2 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above satisfactory level, an 11.9 point increase over the 51.3 percentage a year ago.

Fifth- and eighth-graders improved scores in all categories.

Third-graders, on the other hand, dropped a few points in reading, language usage and social studies.

The annual tests require students to apply what they know about the six categories and set high expectations and demand high levels of performance, according to information released by the board.

MSPAP tests assess the achievement levels of schools, not individual achievement.

The state's goal was to have 70 percent of its students score at the satisfactory level by 2000, but state Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said the recent scores show schools continue to improve.

Overall, 19 of the 24 school systems in the state improved scores.

"But the stories of success around the state confirm that we continue to build one of the nation's top educational structures with a combination of hardworking and dedicated teachers and administrators, high standards and an unmatched accountability system," Grasmick said in a written statement.

The MSPAP began in 1993, four years after a recommendation by the Governor's Commission on School Performance to improve the state's educational system, according to the state.

The state Department of Education has stated the MSPAP is considered among the most difficult testing programs in the nation.

School Board Vice President Doris Nipps, who has spent six years on the board, thanked teachers, principals, the community and parents for their help in improving the county's overall MSPAP score.

"I think today that we can say that good things are happening in Washington County," she said. "This is one of the proudest moments of the six years that I have been here."

Some of the schools that received special recognition at the press conference included:

-Hancock Middle-Senior High School, which increased the percentage of eighth graders who performed at or above state satisfactory level in reading by 31 percentage points over the 1998-99 school year. The school scored a 53, up from the 22 it scored the previous year.

-Fountain Rock Elementary met standards of excellence in reading, with a 82.9 percent score; math at 73.2 percent; science at 75.6 percent and social studies at 70.7 percent in fifth grade.

-Potomac Heights Elementary met standards of excellence in reading, with a 74.2 percent score; language usage at 76.2 percent; math at 75 percent and science at 78.1 percent in fifth grade.

-Boonsboro Middle School met standards on excellence in math, with a 71.9 percent score and writing at 70.3 percent in eighth grade.

Ten elementary and five middle schools in Washington County have achieved the satisfactory or excellent standard on one or more of the six assessment categories, an historic high for the county.

"Our recent gains may be attributed to consistent instruction," Bartlett said in a written release.

"We have seen sustained progress from schools that have aggressively embraced the basic principle that all students can learn at high levels," Flak said.

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