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Biology, geometry assessments climb

August 24, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

karenh@herald-mail.com

Results on state biology and geometry tests continued to improve for Washington County Public Schools high schools, while algebra test scores have declined slightly, according to data released Tuesday by the Maryland State Department of Education.

With English and reading test results not scheduled for release until fall, all of the elementary, middle and high schools in the county so far have made Adequate Yearly Progress, a federal standard of achievement that takes into account the performance of students in racial, ethnic and economic subgroups.

"I'm really pleased. I really am. I just think things are really coming together in this school system," Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

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According to statistics released by the Maryland State Department of Education, more than 91 percent of Washington County students who at one point belonged to the Class of 2005 graduated last year.

The percentage of students graduating has climbed every year since 2000, when Washington County schools posted a mark of 78.3 percent.

The state graduation rate for 2004-05 was nearly 85 percent.

Fewer than 2 percent of Washington County students and fewer than 4 percent of high school students statewide dropped out, according to the department.

Patricia Abernethy, the county's deputy superintendent for instruction, said beginning this year freshmen will be expected to pass High School Assessments in algebra, English, biology and government to graduate.

The school system recorded passage rates of more than 67 percent on the biology and geometry assessments. Passage rates for algebra fell to 73.9 percent - still about 20 percent better than schools statewide.

Clear Spring High School recorded some of the highest passage rates in the county, with rates near 80 percent or higher for geometry, algebra and biology.

South Hagerstown High School recorded some of the lowest passage rates in the county - near 60 percent.

Because of a change in the sequence of the county's course offerings, only 38 students took a state government test, Mowen said. Just 21 percent passed.

According to Mowen and Bob Brown, coordinator of the school system's testing and accountability department, most of the students who took the government test actually attend schools elsewhere. Performance results for students attending schools such as the Maryland Youth Residence Center and the Maryland School for the Blind are attributed to their county of residence, Brown said.

According to Abernethy and Morgan, students now may take government and biology as one-semester classes or throughout the year to better prepare for the assessments. Math and English courses already are offered year-round, Abernethy said.

Interventions for students who have failed tests also will be offered during summer school and possibly after school or on Saturdays, Abernethy said.

Abernethy said she believes scores might go up because of the state's decision to require that students pass the exams to graduate.

"We think there will be a different type of buy-in on the students' part as well when it's tied to graduation," Abernethy said.

According to Brown, students take the state tests at the end of the semester in which they have studied the subject. Students who fail the tests will be given opportunities to try again each time the exams are given by the state, Brown said.

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