Worcester School System Continues Report Card Review; County Proud Of Four-Star Ratings

NEWARK – Education officials continue to review data associated with the state’s new school rating system.

Officials with Worcester County Public Schools say they’re still looking at the ratings associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and determining what the new system means for local schools. The Maryland Report Card issued in December revealed that all of the county’s eligible schools received four out of a possible five stars under the new rating system.

“I know we will have five -star schools next year,” said Annette Wallace, the school system’s chief operating officer.

At the last meeting of the Worcester County Board of Education, staff reviewed the new system and explained how ratings were developed.

Amy Gallagher, coordinator of accountability and assessment for the school system, explained that 65 percent of each school’s rating was based on academic performance while 35 percent was based on school quality and student success. While the ratings are based on test scores, they’re also impacted by things like student growth, attendance and school climate. Climate, Gallagher pointed out, was judged through a student survey.

“The climate survey assessed student perceptions in four areas — safety, school environment, engagement and relationships,” Gallagher said.

She said three of the county’s schools, Showell Elementary School, Pocomoke Elementary School and Snow Hill Elementary School, didn’t receive star ratings because they only had one grade level to be tested (as they don’t all have fourth and fifth grade students).

“Those three schools do not have the possibility of earning 45 points which is the minimum number of points a school must be eligible to earn in order to receive a star under the ESSA star ranking system,” she said.

Gallagher said school system officials continued working to fully understand and monitor all of the data associated with the new rankings.

“We want the ratings to reflect the hard work of our teachers, our students and the success of our schools,” she said.

Superintendent Lou Taylor said Worcester was one of two school systems in the state — the other being Caroline County — that had no schools receive lower than a four-star rating.

“We were proud of that,” he said.

Taylor also praised Gallagher and the rest of the staff who reviewed the scores initially provided to the school system.

“When we first got our scores, I’ve got some brilliant people on my staff,” Taylor said. “They were right at my office saying these scores are not right. I was seeing some things that were threes and lower and I said this can’t be. With their work burning the midnight oil and talking to the state department and, quite frankly, correcting the state department’s data because it was not correct, we got our position where we should have been.”

Wallace said she was confident the school system’s ratings would improve next year. She said several schools were just below the 75 percent threshold that signified a five-star ranking.

“We have schools that were 74.8…,” she said. “We’re knocking on the door. I think we’ll be there.”

She praised the fact that the ESSA ratings were based on more than test scores.

“Everything here in this ESSA rating is good for kids,” she said. “This is probably the first time I’ve seen something in the 16 years I’ve worked in education that is more than just test scores.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.