- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
New marks under Maryland School Progress Index
By LAURA DUKES
Calvert County Public Schools released how its schools measured up on the Maryland School Progress Index at a press conference Monday.
The results were based on the Maryland School Assessments and High School Assesments. The Maryland Progress Index replaces the previous Adequate Yearly Progress measurements under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The results for the state as a whole were also released Monday by the Maryland State Department of Education, or MSDE. The results for Calvert County placed five schools — Dowell, Mutual, Patuxent and Sunderland elementary schools and Huntingtown High School in the highest out of five “strands”; one school, Calvert Middle School, in the lowest strand; and the rest of the schools in the middle three.
The Maryland School Progress Index is described by MSDE as a new accountability system designed to spur school improvement by looking at key indicators. For elementary and middle schools, the indicators are student achievement, gap reduction and growth. For high schools, the indicators are student achievement, gap reduction and college and career readiness.
To be in Strand 1, a school would have to have met all three indicators; Strand 2 would mean meeting two out of three; Strand 3 would mean meeting one out of three; Strand 4 would mean meeting none of them but being close to all three; and Strand 5 would mean meeting zero, one or two indicators.
Beach, Huntingtown, Mt. Harmony and Windy Hill elementary schools, Northern and Plum Point middle schools and Calvert, Northern and Patuxent high schools were in Strand 2. Appeal, Barstow, Plum Point and St. Leonard elementary schools and Mill Creek and Windy Hill middle schools were in Strand 3. Calvert Elementary School and Southern Middle School were in Strand 4.
Calvert County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith explained at Monday’s press conference that the goal of the School Progress Index is a 50 percent reduction of all achievement gaps by 2017. He said this means if a school was ranked 90 percent proficient in an area in 2013, it would need to be 95 percent proficient by 2017. If the school was currently at 60 percent proficient, it would have to get to 80 percent by 2017.
“It’s a complicated system that will probably have more questions than answers over the years,” Smith said.
He explained that rather than simply looking at high test scores, the schools are stranded based on progress. Smith said this meant a school with test scores in the high 90s could end up in a lower strand than a school with test scores in the low 90s or high 80s, simply because the latter school saw a higher growth rate.
CCPS Policy and Communication Specialist Gail Bennett explained that this actually put higher scoring schools in a tougher position because they had less space to grow from year to year.
“The higher your baseline is, the harder it is to meet your progress every single year,” Bennett said.
When it came to having schools in the bottom two strands, Smith said he was “very concerned,” though he added that he was just as concerned about any student who wasn’t reaching his or her potential even if he or she was in a Strand 1 school.
“They haven’t really shared with us what will happen,” Smith said of the plans for the schools in the lower strands. According to MSDE, all schools, regardless of their strands, will need to identify their own needs and potential changes, in addition to working with the county and state school systems.
Mutual Elementary School Principal Lisa Wisniewski said while she was still analyzing the data, she was thrilled to see her school in Strand 1.
“It’s always exciting when you’re in the top strand,” said Wisniewski, who also acknowledged that a smaller achievement gap could be tougher to cut in half.
“As always, the one thing that will never change is we will use the data to drive instruction. Hopefully we will continue to see the progress,” she said.
Wisniewski said an upcoming area of challenge will be the science MSA, which is just now being counted in a school’s overall results. She said that particularly presented a new level of rigor for elementary schools since they don’t have laboratories like middle and high schools.
“Everything is always about continuing to improve instruction,” she said.
Though Smith said Monday he was neither praising nor criticizing the new system, he did point out that “test scores are just results,” and the goal of a school system was first and foremost student safety and preparing students for the next grade level.
“We do what they say because there are penalties for not doing what the state says,” Smith said.