Middle school students’ performance will be tracked by the Measures of Academic Progress test as the county’s schools await data from new state assessments.
Kimberly Statham — deputy superintendent of teaching, learning and programs for the school system — said in a presentation to the school board Monday that the school system eventually will develop academic targets based on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers.
PARCC will be fully implemented in the school system next school year.
“In the meantime, however, we need a high-quality instrument to assess the health of the school system,” she said. “We believe that that instrument is MAP.”
The computer-based progress test that assesses math and reading performance already is in use in the school system. This year, however, will mark the first time the test is used to assess student progress systemwide, Statham said.
Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said these measures are not the same as the “milestone” targets described in the strategic planning framework he announced in June.
Starr said that Monday evening’s conversation marked the first of four the school board will have regarding the school system’s milestones.
According to the strategic plan, students will be tracked through five milestones at grades three, five, eight and nine and graduation.
The data from the progress test, Starr said, will rather serve as a placeholder of sorts.
“Until we have PARCC, we don’t have targets,” he said.
Using the test to create temporary progress measures will help schools understand how to improve their instruction, Starr said.
“It makes sense for measuring our progress without imposing a whole new test or using tests that are going away,” he said.
Students will continue to take the Maryland School Assessments.
Because the MAP test recently underwent significant change, the 2013-2014 school year will mark the school system’s baseline year for data, Starr said.
The school system will determine baseline data based on the PARCC assessments during the 2014-2015 school year, according to Statham’s presentation.
At the high school level, Starr said, the school system can look at factors such as AP test scores, SAT scores, algebra grades and graduation data until PARCC data is available.
“It is a struggle to find equally solid measures of success at the lower grades without having a stable test,” he said.
Board President Christopher S. Barclay raised the issue that the school system would be testing a different group of kids next year, making it more difficult when it comes to determining changes in student performance.
Starr responded that the test results will help form an approximate idea of the school’s overall ability to teach the students.
School board member Shirley Brandman emphasized that she wished to see the test data presented in a way that makes it clear how students are performing compared to their past results, as well as compared to national scores.
In the presentation to the board, Statham reviewed recent math and reading test data from fifth and eighth graders.
The spring 2013 data showed eighth-grade reading scores generally dropped as a school’s student body had a higher percentage of certain student groups, including Hispanic, African-American, low-income and ESOL students.
“I wonder and want to figure out how we can really understand the performance of these schools that are above both the system mean and the national mean that have a very small Latino population,” Barclay said.
Starr said the presentation data showed gaps known to exist in the school system but offered an incomplete view of student performance that will require further analysis.
As it faces these performance gaps and generally seeks to improve school performance, school system staff said the school system will continue to use the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, which outline a way for schools to approach these issues.
Larry Bowers, chief operating officer for the school system, described the Baldrige system as an “important framework and tool for not only understanding performance but guiding planning work that we’re doing.”
The criteria, he said, involve digging deeper into issues — such as achievement gaps and varying performance among schools — and are used to help schools develop their strategic plans.