County Students Continue To Post Improved Test Scores

NEWARK – Worcester school officials say Maryland State Assessment (MSA) test scores show that Worcester County schools are achieving long-term success.

The MSA results released this week during the Tuesday Worcester County Board of Education meeting show that Worcester County’s students scored 91.4 percent proficient or advanced in reading. Math scores were similar, with 89.9 percent of county students scoring proficient or advanced. Both scores increased slightly over last year.

The Maryland State Assessment (MSA) is administered to grades 3 through 8 every year, with the goal of reaching 100 percent proficient or advanced scores in reading and math by the 2013-2014 school year.

By-school numbers and comparisons to other school systems in the state have not been released yet.

Fully half the students tested scored advanced in reading, a slight increase over 2008, while the percent of advanced scores in math stayed the same as last year.

Despite the high numbers of advanced and proficient students in the school system, 237 children (8.6 percent) in reading and 285 children (10.3 percent) in math scored only at the basic level.

In reading, all grades but grade 7 increased their percentage of proficient or advanced scores in reading compared to the 2008 numbers.

Those grades also reached their highest reading proficiency percentage since the test began.

This year’s grade 7 scores dipped two percentage points below last year’s grade 7 reading scores. 

Grade 3 had the highest amount of proficient and advanced students in reading, at 93 percent.

Grade 5 saw a 3.7-percentage point drop in math, compared to last year’s grade 5, but all other grades scored higher in 2009 than 2008. This year, four grade levels got their highest proficiency percentage in math since the MSA’s inception.

Grade 3 also had the highest math score of the six grades tested, at 95.1 percent.

All ethnic subgroups met adequate yearly progress (AYP) levels in both math and reading.

African American students scored 78 proficient or advanced in reading in the 2009 MSAs, and 75 percent proficient or advanced in math.

White students scored 95.3 percent proficient or advanced in reading in 2009, and 94.1 percent proficient or advanced in math.

“The good news is we’re meeting AYP (adequate yearly progress). The bad news is there’s a gap,” said Dr. Dick Walker, assistant superintendent for instruction.

In the 2008 MSAs, the gap between African American students and white students in reading scores was a difference of 19.3 percentage points. In the 2009 MSAs, that gap in reading scores went down to 17.3 percentage points.

In the 2009 math MSA, African American students reduced the gap from 24.2 percentage points in 2008 to 19.1 percentage points.

African American students in grades 3 to 8 gained 2.5 percentage points in reading since 2008, and 5.8 percentage points in math.

White students, while achieving higher numbers of proficient or advanced scores in both subjects, only increased those numbers by half a percent in each case.

Despite the gains seen this year, African American students in Worcester County schools still lag behind all other ethnic groups tracked, white, Asian, and Hispanic, in proficient/advanced ratings.

English language learners and students receiving free and reduced meals also met adequate yearly progress requirements. Special education students, who take an adjusted test, did not meet adequate yearly progress levels by the numbers, missing by less than half of one percent in math, and four percentage points in reading, but a practice using a range called a confidence interval makes up that difference.

“What really excites me is we’re doing better this year than last year,” said school board member Doug Dryden.

“There’s a lot of hard work and resources that went into this,” said school board President Bob Hulburd. “This is a cumulative effect.”

“We’re working on our challenges,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes.

Worcester County graduating seniors were required to pass the Maryland High School Assessment (HSA) tests for the first time this year.

“The class that just graduated, 92 percent met the HSA requirement,” reported Walker at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

Another 3 percent completed bridge plans, an alternate project that also meets the requirements of HSA tests in government, English, Algebra, and biology, in order to graduate.