Md. School Assessment Test Results Show Some Progress

NEWARK – Elementary
school kids in Worcester County continue to show progress on the Maryland
School Assessment (MSA) tests, with overall scores for reading at 91.4 percent
proficient and advanced in grades 3 to 8 and math scores at 90.5 percent
proficient or advanced in grades 3 to 8.       

These scores exceed the
annual measurable objective, a goal set anew every year, according to the
scores released by the Maryland State Board of Education. Annual Yearly
Progress (AYP) ratings will not be available for the school system until later
in August.

All schools must achieve
100-percent proficient or advanced scores in the next four years, as part of
the federal No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2001.

“By 2014, every student
in America will be at or above grade level,” said Andes.

Students must be
proficient or advanced to “pass” the MSA, levels of achievement that are at
grade level or better.

“If any of the subgroups
are not making progress, you as a school system are not making progress,” said
Worcester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes.

Whether the school
system overall, including high school students, has met the AYP mark will not
be determined until mid-August at the earliest, when the high school scores are

All Maryland students in
grades 3 through 8 took the reading and math MSAs in March.

The Maryland State Board
of Education announced the results early this week.

Worcester County
educators had been concerned that missing 10 days of school over the winter
because of bad weather would affect MSA results.

“There are new skills
that are introduced every single day,” said Dr. John Gaddis, the new assistant
superintendent for instruction.

Reading and math classes
are held first thing, said Gaddis, who was principal of Berlin Intermediate
School before moving down to the school board staff this summer, so a two-hour
delay can really disrupt those classes.

Worcester County’s
scores do not seem to have been affected by losing that instructional time.

The achievement gap
between African American and white students has again decreased over last year
in grades 3, 4, 5, and 7. Students from households of poverty who receive free
and reduced meals have also narrowed the gap with other students in grades
3,4,5, and 7. English Language Learners are getting closer to native English
speakers in grades 3, 4, 6, and 8.

While the gap between
special education students and mainstream education students has been reduced
since 2004, this subgroup’s is still the biggest MSA challenge for Worcester
County is.

The gap in math and
reading scores between special education students and mainstream education
students has gone up slightly since 2009.

“Our challenge this
year, our challenge next year, and the year after, is going to be special
education. That will be the challenge,” said Andes.

Special Education
Supervisor Glen Hammerbacher confirmed scores are a cause for concern.

“Our preliminary scores
in special education are cause for some concern, not only as they relate to the
achievement gap, but also as they relate to AYP at some schools,” said

Maryland’s special
education students are assessed through a different test or method than
mainstream students.

Students at Cedar Chapel
Special School, as well as some students in other schools, are assessed through
the modified or alternate MSA.

The alternate MSA is not
a formal, written test, but a collection of reports by teachers, projects and
other information sent into the state, which judges whether the school is
helping that student make progress on his or her individual education plan

About 20 to 25 students,
who usually have multiple challenges, are assessed through the alternate MSA,
Andes said.

The modified MSA is a
pencil and paper test, but it is structured somewhat differently than the
standard MSA test, with just three choices for a multiple choice question, for
example, in stead of four.

Special education
students are typically at least two years behind grade level, but must test at
grade level on the MSAs, Andes said.

MSA scores are not
broken out by student, despite repeated requests for that breakdown.

“It’s difficult for us
to use these to provide intervention and support,” Andes said.

Teachers measure a
student’s individual progress in other ways, staff said.

The schools would also
like to get the scores back more quickly, Andes said.

Grade ranking, as
compared to the rest of the state, are not yet available.