County MSA Scores Improve

NEWARK – Students in third through
eighth grades exceeded the overall state Maryland School Assessment (MSA)
scores in reading and math in 2008, according to preliminary MSA scores
released this week.

“We’re doing better, much
better, in some instances than the state,” said Worcester County Assistant
Superintendent for Instruction Richard Walker.

Individual school information is
not yet available.

Worcester County’s grade-wide
scores are all well over the required yearly progress level and range from 85
percent proficient or advanced in grade 8 math, the lowest number, to 92.5
percent proficient or advanced in grade 3 reading.      

All grade levels tested exceeded
last year’s scores in reading, but only four of six grade levels 2008 math
scores exceeded last year’s marks, with grade four and grade six slipping by
1.3 and 2.3 points respectively.

The Worcester County
school system also saw across-the-board improvements in all ethnic groups in
reading and math.

The achievement gap between
African American and white students narrowed in reading, from a 25.7-point
difference, to a 19.3-point difference, reducing the gap by 6.4 points.

The achievement gap in math
increased by less than one point overall, from a 23.5 point difference, to a
24.4 point difference.

African American students scored
75.5 percent in reading, compared to 83.5 percent for Hispanic students, and
94.8 percent for white students. In math, African American students scored 69.2
percent, Hispanic students scored 90.7 percent, and white students scored 93.6

“We have made progress in each
of our subgroups,” said Walker.
“We have not made as much progress as we would like to have made in these
areas. We are addressing this problem at virtually every level, from early
childhood to parental involvement. We are not moving forward as quickly as we
want but we are moving forward.”

Snow Hill Elementary has
narrowed the gap until it is nearly nonexistent, according to Principal Denise
Shorts, down to one-tenth of a percent difference, through individualized
instruction, learning plans, and after school programs.

“What I’m not satisfied with is
that gap is still there,” said Worcester County Chapter of the NAACP President
Edward Lee, who suggested that the school system look at alternate teaching
methods and sources of learning.  “We’re
going to be talking about that this year.”

“We put very strong focus on
working with teachers on different learning styles,” said testing coordinator
Stephanie Zanich.

 “The largest increase from last year to this
year is in the African American population,” noted Board of Education Vice
President Bob Hulburd.

The school system continues to
realize improvements through individual work with lagging students. Every six
weeks, students in grades 3 through 8, take a benchmark assessment test.
Students who do not do well on the benchmark get individual intervention from
teaching staff.

Maryland schools have until 2014 to
achieve 100 percent proficient or advanced scores on the MSA in reading and
math. Ocean City Elementary School
was honored recently as the first school in the state to achieve 100 percent
proficiency on the MSA.

“We’re very happy we’re hanging
onto performance,” said Walker.

“This was very good news about
the MSAs,” Hulburd said.