Worcester Students’ Test Scores Surpass Md. Average

SNOW HILL — Contrary to sagging statewide results, test scores are holding steading among Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) as educators prepare to convert to the new, federal Common Core Curriculum (CCC) next year.
While Maryland has seen a dip in overall scores with CCC approaching, Worcester results remain largely unchanged thanks to the school system’s focused approach to education, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson.
“During times of transition, educators must utilize the accountability measures of the past, while transitioning to the higher expectations of the future,” Wilson said. “Our sustained excellence on the MSA [Maryland State Assessment] shows that our effective and dedicated staff is committed to high expectations for each student’s achievement and continuous improvement. Teachers continue to be focused on meeting the needs of each individual child.”
MSA results in Worcester came in well over the state average in math and reading in multiple grade levels. Results for grades 3-5 had WCPS students scoring 95.3 percent proficient or advanced in reading, nearly nine points above the 86.4 percent state average. The pattern held for math, with Worcester showing 94.5 percent proficient or advanced to the state’s 83.9 percent.
Grades 6-8 continued the trend with Worcester scoring 93.6 percent and 92.3 percent proficient or advanced in reading and mathematics, respectively. In the same categories, the state averages were 83.4 percent and 72.2 percent.
The numbers sync up with what has been going on for the last decade. The county has seen huge increases at both the elementary and middle school groupings. Proficient or advanced reading scores at the elementary level reading spiked from 77.9 percent in 2004 to 95.3 percent this year, with math scores going from 80.1 percent to 94.4 percent in the same time period. The gains evidenced in WCPS middle school students are even more apparent. In reading, the jump was from 69.8 percent to 93.6 percent in a decade, with mathematics increasing from 62.7 percent to 93.6 percent.
The scores for Worcester are all in line with last year’s results, noted Wilson, with a few negligible peaks and valleys. Though not yet confirmed, early information suggests that Worcester this year met its Annual Measurable Objective (AMO), a benchmark to gauge academic progress.
“This year we had some improvements and some areas where we declined. But overall, these were very small increases and declines,” Wilson said. “The results continue to be outstanding in Worcester County, and we’re very pleased to see that, in spite of the fact that we’re moving towards the implementation of the Common Core standards, our students continue to perform high on the MSA.”
Wilson attributed Worcester holding the line in test scores while the state fell back slightly to several factors, not the least of which being “the high-caliber of teaching that is taking place every day in our classrooms.”
At the state level, Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery acknowledged the dip and said that Maryland expects to go through a “transition period” that will likely carry over into next year.
“Maryland schools have been implementing the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics, but new assessments aligned to the curriculum will not be ready for use until the 2014-2015 school year. This misalignment will certainly affect our scores this year and next,” she said.
In the 2014-2015 school year, MSA will be removed and replaced with the PARCC assessment, which was developed specifically to coordinate with Common Core. Despite the “misalignment,” the drop in state scores was relatively minor. Elementary school reading fell from 88.2 percent to 86.4 percent, while math declined 87.7 percent to 83.9 percent. In middle school grades, reading actually improved from 82.1 percent to 83.4 percent, though math saw a loss of 76.2 percent to 72.2 percent.
Once CCC is in full-swing and the PARCC is in place, Lowery expects Maryland to emerge better than ever in education.
“The Common Core is designed to prepare students for life beyond high school, and the difficulty of the assessments will rise accordingly,” she said. “Results from the new assessments will provide students, parents, and teachers with much more information about where the students are, and reveal a clearer path to their futures. The governor, the general assembly, and MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education) will continue to make certain that Maryland teachers and students have the support necessary to successfully make this transition.”
Wilson also expects Worcester to hit the ground running with the implementation of Common Core over the next school year.
“We are facing the future with confidence, knowing that our students demonstrate high success rates using the current standards, curricula, and accountability system,” Wilson said. “We believe that the time is right to increase rigor in our educational programs.”

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