While Prince George’s County schools still trail the rest of the state in both reading and math scores, the county is making measured gains in student performance on the Maryland School Assessment, the standardized tests that measure student performance.
The school system made advances in almost all grade levels in math, though fourth-grade scores fell slightly from 84 percent proficiency to 81.7 percent. The biggest boost came from eighth-grade math scores. The percentage of students proficient in math jumped from 43.7 in 2011 to 50.4 in 2012, though students trail the state average by nearly 19 percentage points.
“We really focused on middle school math,” said Chief Academic Officer Duane Arbogast, citing a focus on teacher training, middle school principals and new textbooks. “Our math growth is stronger than the state, particularly at the middle school level. I feel pretty good about that jump.”
Statewide, eighth-grade math proficiency dropped two percentage points.
“It’s not an accident. It’s not an anomaly,” said Rosalind Johnson, who represents District 1 on the school board. “The reality is that there has been a really deep strategic planning to get these results.”
Arbogast said the county’s work is not done and hopes to be able to add math resource teachers at the middle school level to continue to improve those scores.
In seventh and eighth grades, Prince George’s students trail the state average proficiency rates in both reading and math by more than 10 percentage points.
“We will continue to plug away at that gap, but you have to remember that gap wasn’t opened up this year,” Johnson said, citing issues like transiency and poverty as difficulties the school system has to overcome.
For the first time since 2003, the percentage of county third-graders with proficient or better reading levels fell slightly, from 79.1 in 2011 to 78.6 in 2012, according to results released by the Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday. Scores in reading also fell for county seventh- and eighth-graders, mirroring a trend at the state level.
But Arbogast said reading proficiency levels should surge in two years, when he expects the system’s investment in reading specialists for first-grade students to pay off.
This year’s assessments set a baseline for improvement over the next five years, as Maryland schools are no longer subject to the benchmarks set by No Child Left Behind that require all students to be proficient by 2014. Under Maryland’s federally approved “School Progress” plan, each school will work to cut in half the percentage of students not proficient in math and reading by 2017.
MSA science scores are slated to be released near the end of August, said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the department of education, and test scores for high school students in the High School Assessment will likely be released in August.
Full results by county and school can be found at www.mdreportcard.org.