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County students better than average on test

January 15, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools students scored better than the state average in four areas tested by the High School Assessments, but about 60 percent of county students would not have passed the English portion of the test if it were required, school officials said Wednesday.

Under preliminary plans being considered by the Maryland State Department of Education, high school students eventually would need to pass all four areas of the High School Assessments in order to graduate.

While county students are required to take the new test, which was first administered in 2002, they currently are not required to pass the test.

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County scores from the statewide tests administered last January and May were released Wednesday.

A detailed presentation on the scores is scheduled to be given to the Washington County Board of Education at a business meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

The High School Assessments are a series of state standardized end-of-course exams given in the subjects of government, algebra I, geometry, English 9 and biology.

Clear Spring High School had the best algebra scores in the state, which is an exciting accomplishment, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

In algebra, the district ranked second among the 24 school systems in the state on scores released this year, Executive Director of Secondary Education Boyd Michael III said. It ranked sixth based on scores released last year, he said.

The scores show that 68.7 percent of Washington County students who last took the test would have passed the test had it been required for graduation.

The school system met its goal of doing better than the state average, Morgan said.

"Overall, we held our own," she said.

The results are even more impressive considering that the school system has less money per pupil than many districts, Morgan said.

The scores demonstrate "we are putting our money in the right place," she said.

But the school system needs to improve its scores on future tests, Morgan said.

"We really have a lot of work to do, but we have a really good base," she said.

The weakest scores, for both the school system and the state, were in English.

About 39.8 percent of students who took the test statewide had passing scores in the English portion of the test, compared to 41.2 percent of Washington County students.

The school system ranked eighth in English based on the scores released this year while it ranked ninth based on the scores released last year, Michael said.

The school system ranked 10th on the assessment test in government, based on results released this year, compared to 11th place in the previous year, he said.

It ranked 13th in biology based on the results released this year compared to 12th place last year, according to Michael.

The state released some of the test data to the school system in late December. Since then, district employees have been analyzing the scores.

The state has not yet given the district the scores for individual students. Those scores will be part of the students' high school transcripts.

State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick has recommended that passing the tests become graduation requirements, beginning with the graduating class of 2009, the current seventh-graders.

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