SNOW HILL — Though some aspects were measured differently than in years past, Worcester County’s Maryland State Assessment (MSA) scores for 2012 remain among the best in the state.
Split into reading and math, the MSA is the state’s traditional benchmark for judging student progress in Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. For the past several years, Worcester has been among the top finishers in nearly every category. This year was no different.
A total of 94.4 percent of students in the county scored proficient or advanced on this year’s MSA with more than half scoring advanced in both reading and math.
“Our chief interest is moving students into the advanced category, as it is one of many indicators for post-secondary readiness,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson. “In this competitive global economy, our mission no longer stops at graduation. Our mission is to prepare our students for what comes after graduation: for college and career.”
At the elementary school level, Worcester students exceeded the state averages in reading and math, 88.2 and 87.7 percent, respectively, by roughly seven points in each category, with 95.5 and 95.3 percent. The gap was even more apparent at the middle school level.
Statewide, students scored an average of 82.1 percent while math averages were even lower at 76.2. Worcester middle school level students widely overshot those medians, scoring 91.8 and 93.6 percent respectively.
“As a top-performing school system in the state, many of our schools and subgroups were already in the 98 and 99 percentile,” ” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. John Gaddis. “The challenge for us is evident. Although we recognize this, we will do everything in our power to continue to move all of our students forward. Our teachers and staff, the whole educational team, is committed to this.”
While the scores are on track with previous high-performing years, changes in education at the state level, specifically regarding calculating student growth, are already altering the way things are measured at the county level.
“When we compare the overall performance of our students in 2012 with last year’s results, we continue to see progress at the highest levels,” Wilson said. “This demonstrates that regardless of education reforms at the federal and state levels, when we focus on the success of the individual child, coupled with preparing each student for college and beyond, student growth will progress. We commend our teachers, administrators, and staff for staying focused on what really matters: our students.”
In May, Maryland became one of eight states that have been granted a flexibility waiver from some aspects of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program.
“The changes have melded some of the previous requirements of No Child Left Behind with the new expectations associated with Race to the Top (RTTT) and the Common Core,” said Wilson. “It is like changing lanes on the highway; right now we are easing into the RTTT passing lane, being keenly aware of both lanes, while staying focused on what is most important: the future success of our students.”
Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) was one of the categories most affected by the NCLB waiver. Prior to the waiver, each school system, school, grade level and sub-group had to display a certain amount of academic advancement every year until 2014, when the state expects 100 percent proficiency from all. If any group failed, schools risked being slammed by penalties.
With this year’s waiver, AYP is no longer identified, though school officials explained that this doesn’t mean Worcester is able to skate by with zero accountability.
“Accountability is still very evident, however,” said Gaddis. “In the place of AYP is a familiar standard called the Annual Measurable Objective or AMO. Like AYP, the AMO is the standard that must be met each year. The differences between the two involve how they are calculated and the timeline for when new proficiency requirements must be met.”
Gaddis added that the new measurement will give previously underperforming groups a chance to catch up.
“This new calculation will especially benefit AMO groups which have been underperforming and not making AYP in the past,” he said. “If the group was quite a distance from 100 percent in 2011, now, they only have to advance halfway. Instead of needing to improve by 40 percentage points (to reach 100 percent), for example, the group would only have to improve by 20 percentage points. In some cases, the top goal in 2017 could be 80 percent or even lower.”
Wilson summarized the scores by saying that “labels do not tell the whole story.”
“School performance on the MSA in the mid-to-high 90s is outstanding,” he said. “At the same time, each child’s success is important and the AMO helps us to keep focused,” said Wilson. “When you stay focused on what matters, our students, all else falls into place.”