NEWARK – Data released this week shows that Worcester County schools scored four out of five possible stars under the state’s new accountability system.
Though only nine of the county’s schools were rated under the new system, the Maryland Report Card released Tuesday revealed that they each received four of five possible stars. Superintendent Lou Taylor said officials were pleased with the news.
“While we recognize that there are still strides to make here in Worcester County, we are pleased to begin from a very strong baseline position,” he said.
Maryland Report Card results, which can be viewed by school online at www.mdreportcard.org, are now based on more than just test results.
“The new Report Card still gauges how our schools and school systems are faring on state assessments, but also other factors such as growth in achievement, high school graduation, student access to a well-rounded curriculum, the progress of English language learners, and postsecondary readiness,” said Karen Salmon, the state’s superintendent of schools, in a statement on the website.
The new star system, which comes as a result of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, will provide community members with a more comprehensive picture of school performance, according to John Quinn, chief academic officer for Worcester County Public Schools.
“It’s considering more than just academics,” he said. “Back in the days of No Child Left Behind it was strictly performance on two tests, one in math and one in English — ELA, English Language Arts. That really was the determiner of whether a school was successful or not…. Under the new federal legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act, it stipulates that every school will be related and they lay out a variety of areas a school will be rated on.”
Elementary and middle schools are rated on academic achievement, academic progress, progress in English language proficiency and measures of school quality and student success. High schools are rated on academic achievement, graduation rate, progress in English language proficiency, readiness for post-secondary success and measures of school quality and student success.
Quinn stressed that the biggest difference with the new rating system was the way it took into account more than test scores.
“For the first time a school will actually be rated in a variety of areas,” he said. “It’s transparent. You can go to the state website and look up any school and ultimately see how they did and how many stars they received.”
Quinn said the ratings this week showed Worcester County Public Schools was “in a good place.”
“It’s a good starting place,” he said. “We know what we have to focus on now. We’ll be looking at the results and talking to our principals and school improvement teams and putting in initiatives that will help us improve.”
Some of the county’s schools did not receive ratings because they didn’t meet the minimum point threshold. That, Quinn explained, was because elementary schools that don’t include fourth and/or fifth grade (such as Showell Elementary School, Pocomoke Elementary School and Snow Hill Elementary School) didn’t receive points in categories that pertained to those grades.
Though they weren’t rated, Quinn said officials were still concerned about performance there because success in those schools sets the stage for later success.
“They’re part of the whole continuum,” he said.
From the nine schools rated, highest ratings went to Snow Hill High School (73.6 percent), Ocean City Elementary School (73.3 percent) and Stephen Decatur High School (68.6 percent). Quinn attributed the county’s success to small class sizes and the one-on-one instruction teachers were therefore able to provide.
“You see some really creative teaching and teaching that’s directed at the needs of each of the students,” he said. “Small class sizes permit that.”
When asked if he had any concerns about the results, Quinn said he did not.
“I was a little disappointed a couple of our schools came close to being five star schools and I just wish they had made it,” he said. “Overall I just feel relieved we’re in a very solid place. We know what we have to work on. This is the first year in a long process.”
In Wicomico County, two thirds of schools received a star rating of four out of five stars, including all 10 elementary schools. James M. Bennett, Parkside and Wicomico High schools each received three stars.
“We see the School Report Cards as both informative and empowering, with indicators that will allow us to celebrate our successes and help us ask questions, find answers, make decisions, and act to make continuous improvements in our schools and our school system,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donna Hanlin. “We hope [stakeholders] will review this School Report Card, and with the data in it become more informed about and engaged in Wicomico County Public Schools. Together we will strive for even higher levels of excellence for all of our children.”