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As the Charles County school system and the state transition to a new curriculum, standardized test scores show slight decreases.

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.

According to information from Charles County Public Schools, this year’s MSA scores are reported under Maryland’s flexibility waiver regarding NCLB. Under Maryland’s “School Progress” plan, each school is measured against its own targets, and must work to increase academic achievement across all subgroups.

Transitioning to new standards while being assessed on the old caused numbers to go down statewide, officials said.

Subgroups include ethnic and racial minorities, children on free or reduced-price meal status, students with special needs and students for whom English is not their native language.

This is the last year for full MSA testing as the state moves to Common Core standards.

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.

Common Core is scheduled to be fully implemented next school year, though Charles County transitioned to Common Core last year.

Next year, Maryland school systems will test students with a combination of MSA and the new statewide assessment, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. All students will be assessed using PARCC in the 2014-15 school year, according to the school system.

Charles County’s decrease in scores this year ends a decade of progress on its scores. Reading and math scores for elementary and middle schools are down slightly from the year before.

In elementary schools, 84.21 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in reading, and 80.6 percent were proficient or advanced in math. These numbers are down from 86.72 and 85.42 percent, respectively.

In middle schools, 81.6 percent of students scored proficient or advanced on the reading MSA, and 76.9 percent were proficient or better in math. Both scores represented a slight decrease from 2012. The school system indicated that the decrease “stalled a decade of steady progress.”

State Superintendent Lilian M. Lowery said that the state and the nation are in a transition period.

“Maryland schools have been implementing the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics, but new assessments aligned to the curriculum will not be ready for use until the 2014-15 school year. This misalignment will certainly affect our scores this year and next,” Lowry said in a news release from MSDE.

Statewide, elementary students scoring at the proficient levels in reading fell slightly from 88.2 percent in 2012 to 86.4 percent this year, while the percentage of elementary students scoring in the proficient levels in mathematics dropped from 87.7 to 83.9 percent, the release states.

School system Superintendent Kimberly Hill said that the lower scores do not take away from the progress made over the past decade.

Since 2003, CCPS has closed the achievement gap — the average difference in scores between African-American students and white students found proficient on the MSA — in elementary reading from 25.7 to 10.2 points.

The school system reported this week that since the MSAs were first implemented, there has been an increase of more than 15 points in student proficiency in elementary reading and math. Middle schoolers’ reading proficiency increased by 15 points since 2003 and by 31 points in math proficiency.

Individual schools showed some gains this year. For example, Piccowaxen Middle School slightly increased its reading scores in sixth and seventh grades.

C. Paul Barnhart continued to make progress, increasing its third-grade reading proficiency by 10 points.

“Our principals and our teachers work so hard to prepare kids for success in reading and math,” Hill said, adding that the MSA is one way to measure that success, “but it’s not the only way.”

When seeing the MSA results for herself, Hill said the slight decrease in scores was “not unexpected.”

“We knew that starting last year we were teaching to the new curriculum,” Hill said.

She said, “we’re teaching one thing and being assessed with another thing. Those two aren’t in agreement.”

Hill said she is confident that the Common Core standards will continue to move students forward.

In a release, she wrote that Common Core raises the bar for teachers, students and administrators.

She said the new standards will be a good thing and that districts will see its payoff once assessments align with the Common Core.

gphillips@somdnews.com