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Testing done, where do schools go from here?

July 24, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

o Maryland School Assessment results for grades 3 through 8

In August, parents will find out how their children performed on the Maryland School Assessment reading and math tests that public school students took in March.

But what does it mean to them? To their children? To teachers, principals or administrators at the central office of Washington County Public Schools?

County education officials, including school principals, have started diving into the piles of data for each school, whether or not each met proficiency standards, so strategies can be formed for each school to help students improve and meet this school year's proficiency standards, said Michael Markoe, assistant superintendent for student and staff support.

That work includes, for schools that did not meet proficiency goals, looking at why certain student groups didn't fare well on the tests and what efforts need to be intensified, said Markoe, who in the past school year was assistant superintendent for elementary instruction.

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The state released 2010 Maryland School Assessment (MSA) results last Tuesday for students who were in grades 3 through 8 last school year. Results from the High School Assessments are expected to be released in August or September, said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education.

Washington County data showed six of 32 elementary and middle schools failed to meet minimum proficiency standards last school year.

The minimum proficiency standards or state goals are set each year to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Beginning with the 2002-03 school year, benchmarks for proficiency were set for reading and math.

Each school has up to 37 indicators it has to meet each year to meet these proficiency levels, which also are known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP. These cover reading and math for several subgroups, including racial and ethnic groups as well as subgroups for special education, students with limited English proficiency, and students who receive free or reduced-price meals. The indicators include performance as well as participation in the tests and school attendance.

The goal is for each school and subgroup to reach 100 percent for the 2013-14 school year. That means every student who takes the tests would have to score at or above the proficiency level and have been in the school for a certain period of time.

What it means to students, parents



Meeting 100 percent proficiency by 2014 doesn't mean every student has to score a perfect grade on the Maryland School Assessment tests.

Scoring "proficient" means a student demonstrated fundamental grade-level math skills and concepts, can generally solve entry-level math problems, read grade-appropriate text, and comprehend literature and informational passages, according to MSA information.

Students who score below proficiency are at a "basic" level in which they have demonstrated only partial mastery of math skills and concepts and are unable to adequately read and comprehend grade-appropriate literature and informational passages.

Students who score above proficiency are at an "advanced" level and can regularly solve complex math problems, read above grade-level text, and comprehend complex literature and informational passages.

School system officials anticipate that by Aug. 9, parents can find out how their child in elementary or middle school performed on the assessment tests through the school system's website at http://www.wcps.k12.md.us, said Jeremy Jakoby, supervisor of testing and accountability. Parents can register for free to gain access to their children's results through an online portal known as Performance Matters. There already are more than 10,000 parent accounts, he said.

School officials also will send a paper copy of the math and reading tests' results home with students during the first week of school, which begins Aug. 18, Jakoby said.

The hope is that parents will use those reports to talk to their children's teachers and principals about specific areas in which their children need to improve and what parents can do to help spur that improvement, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

"I think the more information a parent has, the more they can help their kid," Morgan said.

Parents also can use test results to talk to their children about their strengths and weaknesses, she said.

Parents should keep in mind that the test results are not a "permanent condition," Morgan said.

Every student can improve with effort, Morgan said. Parents can help that along by partnering with educators, she said. There are many students who scored "basic" on their assessment tests and improved to the advanced level, she said.

Depending on what strategies school system officials devise to help each school meet this year's AYP goals, students might notice changes in lesson plans.

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