Achievement Gap Still A Reality On State Tests

NEWARK – African-American student test scores still lag significantly behind all other ethnic groups in Worcester County elementary and middle schools on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) test, while doing well compared to other African-American students in the state.

“We still have a lot of work to do with that population,” said Dr. Richard Walker, assistant superintendent for instruction.

In Worcester County, African- American students show better scores on the MSA than many of their African-American counterparts in other school systems. Worcester County’s Grade 7 African-American students rank first in the state in reading and math. Grade 6 ranks first in math as well, with Grade 8 African-American math scores second statewide.

But Worcester County’s African-American students from Grades 3 to 8 still scored much worse than their White, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian classmates on the MSA in 2007 in both reading and math.

The good news is that 88 percent of all Grade 3 to 5 students from Worcester County scored proficient in reading, and 89 percent proficient in math.

“Our third graders are number one in the state in reading,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes at this week’s Board of Education meeting.

But when the scores are broken down by ethnic group, only 69 percent of African-American students in Grades 3 to 5 scored proficient in reading, compared to 93.7 percent of white students. Hispanic (90.5 percent), Asian (95 percent) and American Indian (100 percent) students scored   higher.

The same story holds in math, with 70 percent of African-American students in Grades 3 to 5 scoring proficient, compared to 95 percent of whites.

Eighty-three percent of Hispanic students scored proficient in math, while 100 percent of Asian and American Indian students met the proficiency standard.

White students and African-American students showed similar rates of improvement in both subjects.

All groups met the yearly progress requirements on both.

The sixth- to eighth-grade students show similar reading results, with the African-American students at 68.6 percent, proficient, and behind all other groups in reading.

White students scored 90.9 percent proficient, American Indian students 100 percent proficient, Asian students 94.4 percent proficient, and Hispanic students 78.4 percent proficient in reading in grades six to eight.

The statewide reading scores are down, but Worcester County’s continue to go up in sixth through eighth grades, said Andes.

Math scores for African-American students in grades six to eight were nearly identical to the reading scores, with 69.5 percent of African-American students proficient, and 90.7 percent white students proficient.

African-American students showed more progress at these grade levels, 11.9 percent improvement versus 5 percent improvement for white students in reading, and 18.7 percent improvement in math for African-American students, compared to 5 percent for white students.

Both American Indian students and Asian students scored 83 percent on the math MSA in grade six to eight, and Hispanic students 81.6 percent.

Overall, sixth- to eighth-grade  students showed 85.7 percent proficiency in reading, and 85.5 percent proficiency in math.

“We’re trying a number of different strategies to improve the gap,” said Walker.

Worcester schools offer small group tutoring during the school day and after school programs, different teaching approaches, and are rallying support for students among parents and the community, he explained.

Test scores are analyzed to show where students have made progress and where they need to improve.

“I think it’s a complex problem,” Walker said.

Overall, Worcester students are doing well on the MSA, according to Andes.

“We’re above the state in every grade level. We exceed the targets set,” said Andes of the county MSA math scores.

Third grade and eighth grade county math scores are first in the state.

“Our students in every grade level grew last year,” said Stephanie Zanich, who crunches the MSA numbers for the school board.