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School test scores up

Performance slips slightly in two major categories

Performance slips slightly in two major categories

June 21, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

While some Washington County Public Schools posted isolated declines at individual grade levels, the system continued to show improvement on state tests this spring, according to results released Tuesday.

The system's performance on Maryland School Assessments slipped in only two major categories, as fourth-grade and eighth-grade results on reading tests each fell by less than 1 percent since the 2004-05 school year.

Overall, about 80 percent of Washington County students in grades 3 through 8 met state standards on the elementary-school and middle-school-level tests, but some subcategories of students posted more modest scores.

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"It's a continued great effort on the part of our teachers, building administrators and Central Office staff," Washington County Board of Education President W. Edward Forrest said Tuesday during a meeting with administrators.

Washington County students continued to outperform their peers across the state in every grade on both the math and reading tests. Sixth-graders and third-graders showed some of the strongest gains on both tests, and while the county's performance on the fourth-grade math test slipped, at least three schools - Cascade, Sharpsburg and Pleasant Valley elementary schools - posted perfect marks.

At Springfield Middle School, all but 8.8 percent of sixth-graders demonstrated proficiency or better understanding on their math tests.

Despite the gains, some student groups still lag behind their peers, according to the results. Only half of Washington County students with disabilities could read to state standards, and fewer than 70 percent of low-income students demonstrated proficiency in either the math or reading tests.

More than one student in four in grades 6 through 8 at E. Russell Hicks Middle School performed below state standards on the math tests, while fewer than 60 percent of Lincolnshire Elementary School fifth-graders met the mark.

According to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, all students must be able to perform at grade level by 2014.

The system could find out next month whether it has met Adequate Yearly Progress, a federal target defined by each state that involves both overall student performance and the achievement gaps among disadvantaged groups, said Boyd Michael III, executive director of secondary education. High School Assessment scores likely will be released in August, he said.

School staff are committed to providing extra help to struggling students, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

"Our position is when you hold kids to high standards and you teach them well, every child can learn well," Morgan said.

Morgan said she was pleased with the scores of students at Eastern and Bester elementary schools, where teachers reapplied for their jobs and put in longer workdays to take part in professional-development sessions. Among third-graders at Eastern, students' reading scores have climbed from proficiency levels of about 44 percent in 2003, the spring before the restructuring process began, to 83.2 percent, Morgan said.

The state scores show that Winter Street Elementary School and Western Heights Middle School both can benefit from the restructuring model they began this spring, Morgan said.

At Western Heights, only about half of eighth-graders demonstrated proficiency on either the math and reading tests.

Winter Street's results largely showed improvement. The school's best scores were on the third-grade math test, in which 80 percent of students performed up to standard.

Both schools are hiring new staffs this summer, and teachers will take part in intensive professional development during the school year.

Continued success at Eastern shows the system is on the right track, Morgan said.

"I think those people are teaching their hearts out, but it's also a cultural change that has occurred," Morgan said.

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