Assessment test scores improve

September 15, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

Students in Washington County Public Schools showed a marked improvement this year in High School Assessment test scores over the previous year.

According to numbers released Tuesday by the county school system, students raised their pass rates in all four subjects tested: English, biology, algebra and government. The most dramatic change came in English assessments, in which students posted a 10.6 percent increase from 2003 scores.

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick announced last week that test scores rose statewide; according to numbers released Tuesday, county students surpassed the state averages in three of the four categories, but lagged in English even with the higher numbers.


Last year, Washington County students surpassed the state pass rate in English, achieving a 41.2 percent pass rate compared with the state rate of 39.8 percent. This year in English assessments, the county pass rate was 51.8 percent, while the state posted a pass rate of 53 percent.

The Maryland State Board of Education voted in June to require students to pass the assessments to receive high school diplomas. The first class to be affected by that requirement is the class of 2009, now in eighth grade. Students have been taking the tests for the past three years but have not been required to pass them.

School officials "are phasing in the requirements," said Carol Mowen, spokeswoman for Washington County Public Schools. Although students are not yet required to pass, the results are included in their transcripts, Mowen said.

The scores announced Tuesday are the results of tests taken during the 2003-04 academic year.

On the algebra test, the county posted a 75.9 percent pass rate, an improvement of 7.2 percent from the previous year. In biology, students achieved a 64.2 percent pass rate, a 6.6 percent gain from the previous year. And in government, the pass rate was 66.7 percent, a gain of 6.4 percent.

Other state pass rates were:

· Biology: 60.9 percent, up from 54.3 percent in 2003

· Government: 65.9 percent, up from 60.2 percent

· Algebra: 58.8 percent, up from 53.2 percent

Four Washington County high schools - Boonsboro, Clear Spring, Smithsburg and South Hagerstown - posted gains on the assessments, and South High posted a double-digit improvement in all four categories, school officials said.

"All staff in our system have been very focused on improving the academic challenge in our high school programs, so that our graduates can be successful in achieving whatever their post-secondary goals may be," Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said in a statement. "These results demonstrate that the high school improvement initiatives in our master plan are taking hold."

Those improvement initiatives included new curricula designed around the tests and adding "student achievement specialists" in math and English to work with students and teachers, said Boyd Michael, executive director of secondary education for Washington County Public Schools. He said school officials continually analyze teaching methods to make improvements.

"We're looking at past practices to see what is proven to work," he said.

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