- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The pressure is off of schools to ensure 100 percent of children test “proficient” in reading and math by 2014, but educators said standards still are rigorous after the federal government granted states waivers of some mandates in the No Child Left Behind Act.
Principals said while state test reporting and curricula have changed, the goals for making gains on student progress remain the same.
Earlier this week, 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 NCLB.
NCLB mandated that all students must score at proficient levels by 2014, and progress toward that goal was measured statewide by Adequate Yearly Progress.
AYP no longer will be part of the accountability process, replaced by the Maryland School Performance/Progress Index.
According to information provided by MSDE, the new school progress plan will pay special attention to the lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools in the state and the schools with a significant gap between the average scores of the all-student group and the lowest performing subgroup.
Subgroups include minorities, lower income students receiving free or reduced-price meals and special education students. Those schools will be grouped as focus schools, which will have a menu of items to choose from to meet their needs and reduce achievement gaps.
The plan will continue to assess students using MSAs and High School Assessments.
Now that the AYP penalty has been taken away from schools, C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School Principal Amy Hollstein said little has changed in terms of accountability.
In regards to eliminating AYP, “nobody really cares because we want our kids to meet the benchmarks. ... We are holding ourselves accountable,” she said.
Malcolm Elementary School Principal Wilhelmina Pugh said that while the AYP measure has been taken away, the goal of getting students to reach full potential remains.
“There is always going to be pressure. You always have to make sure students do the best they can,” she said.
Pugh said staff must make sure students can read and are prepared for the future, AYP or not.
Malcolm Elementary School saw gains in both reading and math scores with slight dips in fifth-grade reading and fourth- and fifth-grade math scores.
Malcolm’s overall average scores for reading and math were 90.6 and 89.3, respectively.
Malcolm missed its target in both reading and math for special education, with 62.5 percent in reading and 45.8 percent in math for the 24 test takers in the category.
While there is no longer a threat for being placed on the school improvement lists which allowed parents to move their children from a Title I school on the list or sanctions based on the AYP system, Pugh said staff is mindful of looking at the overall needs of each student to boost individual improvements.
“We’re on the right track.” Pugh said. “We will go back, tweak a few things and stay on course.”
Matthew Henson Middle School missed the mark in special education math. Of the 53 students in special education, 25 met the school’s goal of 70.5 percent.
Principal Sonia Jones said school staff will continue to work with special education students to build relationships and help meet individual needs.
One way the school will focus on special education is to reach out to the community and get parents more involved, Jones said.
Even with missing one target, “We still have reason to celebrate,” Jones said.
Henson saw improvements over last year, especially in eighth-grade math, which jumped from 72.3 percent last year to 84.3 percent this year.
With AYP gone, Jones said there will be no changes at the school in its expectations for children.
Berry Elementary School met all of its targets this year, including in math for special education, which missed the mark last year.
Principal Marvin Jones said he and his staff were not focused on changes to the measuring system.
“We approached [MSAs] as if nothing had changed,” he said.
Berry reached a score of 86.5 in reading and 86.3 in math.
According to information from the school system, the state curriculum also is being updated through the state’s involvement in the Common Core State Standards Program.
The new standards are aimed to link curricula in English and math from state to state and provide a clear understanding of what students are to learn.
The state curricula based on the standards are not scheduled to be fully implemented until the 2013-14 school year, according to the MSDE website. Charles County public schools will implement the common core standards beginning in the next school year.
Jones said he thanks the school system for being “ahead of the curve” when it comes to common core, and implementing it one year earlier than required.
When it comes to MSAs, Hollstein said while the curriculum will change for Charles County this year, the MSA test will not. She said with new curricula and new textbooks, it will be important to embrace the changes while still staying mindful of getting students to meet state targets.
Hollstein agreed with Jones that it was smart of the school system to implement common core a year early allowing the system to adjust to what soon will be the national standard.
Charles schools Superintendent James E. Richmond said in a newss release that the early shift to common core “will continue to raise the standard of academic excellence and rigor for all students.”