Montgomery County officials say they are pleased with students’ performance on the Maryland State Assessment (MSA) this year, results of which show improvement in math scores but a slight drop in reading.
“MCPS students continue to perform extremely well on the MSA, outscoring their peers across the state overall and in specific subgroups,” said Dana Tofig, a spokesperson for the county’s public schools.
Data from the Maryland Report Card showed county elementary schools moved up 1 percentage point from 2011, with 89.7 percent scoring proficient or above; middle schools moved up 1.6 points from last year, with 81.2 percent proficiency.
Both scored higher than the state proficiency rates of 87.7 percent for elementary and 76.2 percent for middle schools.
However, reading scores declined slightly from last year, though both elementary and middle schools scored higher than the state proficiency rates of 88.2 percent and 82.1 percent, respectively.
Elementary school students scored 91.7 percent proficient or higher this year, compared to 91.8 percent proficiency rate last year. Middle school students scored 88.9 percent proficiency this year, down just under 1 percent from 2011.
Tofig said the county is happy with students’ performance on the test, but added that “test data is only one indicator of a school’s success and should be used as a part of a conversation about how to improve teaching and learning for all students.”
MSA results from the previous year showed that several of the 24 schools identified for improvement in 2011 had not met adequate yearly progress (AYP) since 2008 or earlier, including Germantown’s Capt. James Daly Elementary and Neelsville Middle School, Gaithersburg Middle School and Forest Oak Middle School.
Previously, failure of schools to meet AYP for three consecutive years resulted in required corrective action, including school and staff restructuring. However, in May, Maryland was granted flexibility from some of the requirements under No Child Left Behind, according to the state department of education.
In total, 26 states have been granted flexibility, while 12 states, including Washington, DC, still await approval, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
As part of No Child Left Behind, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) required that all students pass standardized tests by 2014, but the flexibility plan allows Maryland to reset the annual progress goals to 2017—at which point each school should have reduced its percentage of non-proficient students by half, according to the state.
Maryland’s new accountability system, which will replace the AYP formula that has been used since 2001, takes into account growth, gap reduction and college readiness, according to the Maryland Report Card, in order to more accurately determine a school’s progress.
Joshua Starr, Montgomery County Public Schools' superintendent, said in a statement that he feels too much emphasis is currently placed on standardized testing, even with the new plan.
“If we are serious about wanting to improve education for all students, we must develop more accurate ways of measuring the quality of instruction and the engagement of students,” he said. “If we continue to base our education reform efforts on standardized tests, we are doing a tremendous disservice to our students, teachers and our entire public school system.”