- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Of the 29 elementary and middle schools in Charles County, 10 missed state testing targets this year — an improvement over last year’s 16.
School officials reported that many schools made significant gains on test scores released Tuesday, and with new changes to the state’s testing process, schools will continue to work toward progress.
The Maryland State Department of Education released results of the Maryland School Assessment, a test given to students in grades 3 through 8 in math and reading to satisfy requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Education gave Maryland some flexibility from NCLB provisions.
NCLB mandated that all students must score at proficient levels by 2014, and progress toward that goal was measured statewide by Adequate Yearly Progress.
According to information provided by MSDE, the new school progress plan will continue to assess students using MSAs and High School Assessments; however, AYP no longer will be part of the accountability process, replaced by the Maryland School Performance/Progress Index.
Under the new system, students still will need to reach set objectives in all subgroups of race, gender and special education and economic status. However, each school now has individual performance targets, known as Annual Measurable Objectives, instead of the across-the-board percentage of students scoring proficient on the tests of AYP.
Charles County Public Schools spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson said the individual AMOs are designed to reduce the number of nonproficient students at each school in each subgroup by 50 percent in six years.
For example, instead of having to reach 100 percent of students proficient on the tests by 2014, the old NCLB goal, Waldorf’s Benjamin Stoddert Middle School met its AMO of 77.3 percent proficient in reading with a score of 78.5 percent. The bar will go up for Stoddert next year to 79.4 and will continue to rise until 2017.
Each AMO is unique to the school and its individual subgroups.
“The nice thing about the test is that it’s you against you, and that’s the way I like it,” said Superintendent James E. Richmond, regarding the changes pitting schools against themselves rather than other schools.
Mandated sanctions against schools for not meeting goals are also gone, including the provision that parents of children at failing schools could move them to a better school.
C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School in Waldorf was one such sanctioned school.
Fifty students left the school after some parents chose to send their children to other schools when the school failed to meet AYP in consecutive years.
O’Malley-Simpson said those parents can continue to have their currently enrolled students at those two schools, but the school system no longer will provide transportation.
With the gains Barnhart made this year, Principal Amy DiSabatino Hollstein said the school has “changed the headlines” on its bad reputation.
The school met all of its objectives for every student in every subgroup this year.
Barnhart students were 76.4 percent proficient in math last year and jumped to 87 percent proficient this year.
Similarly in reading, Barnhart was at 78 percent proficient last year and this year reached 84 percent.
The biggest gain for Barnhart was special education in both reading and math as both areas had gains of 31 and 29 points, respectively.
“Truly these scores even exceeded my expectations,” DiSabatino Hollstein said. “The kids are going to be thrilled. They worked so hard. The teachers embraced all the change.”
Third-grade teachers Pam Gill and Nicole Maroudy said Tuesday that they were practically speechless when DiSabatino Hollstein announced the school’s scores.
“It’s just amazing,” Maroudy said. “They [students] really did work so hard and I’m so glad they get to celebrate it.”
Richmond said the test results are taken just as seriously as they were before the flexibility plan was put in place.
He said while he is pleased with gains and especially pleased with schools such as Dr. James Craik Elementary School, which made 99.6 percent proficient in reading and 97.8 percent in math this year, he would like to see more gains across the board. He said staff has already met with principals and continue to do so to find out what resources are needed to get every student where he needs to be.
Charles County elementary schools reached 86.7 percent of students proficient or advanced in reading and 85.4 percent in math. The state was above these numbers, with 88.2 percent for reading and 87.7 percent for math. Middle school results show Charles County at 82.9 percent of students proficient or advanced in reading and 80.6 percent in math.
These scores bested the state averages of 82.1 percent in middle school reading and 76.2 in math.
HSA results will be released in coming months.
The Maryland Independent will publish a chart with all of the schools’ test scores in the Friday edition.