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Maryland School Assessment results released and improvements noted in local counties

Maryland Dept of EducationContinued elementary school reading and mathematics improvement was recorded on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) in 2012, both nearing 90 percent proficiency on a statewide basis, according to data released today by the Maryland State Department of Education. Middle school mathematics scores also increased, the data reveal.

The percentage of elementary students scoring at the proficient levels in reading increased from 88 percent in 2011 to 88.2 percent in 2012, while the percentage of elementary students reaching proficiency in mathematics improved from 86.3 percent to 87.7 percent. At the middle school level, the percentage of students scoring proficient in reading dipped slightly from 83.5 in 2011 to 82.1 percent in 2012, while the percentage of proficient students in mathematics rose from 73.7 percent last year to 76.2 percent.

The scores continue the steady progress made over the past nine years. Composite elementary reading scores have increased 26.2 points since 2003, while mathematics scores are up 27.7 points. Composite middle school reading scores are up 22.2 points since 2003, and mathematics has increased a dramatic 36.6 points.

“Our students continue to make outstanding progress on the Maryland School Assessments,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “In this rapidly changing, increasingly knowledge-based global economy, the most important modern investments we make are in the talents, skills, education, creativity and ingenuity of our people. Thanks to the hard work of our educators, administrators, parents and students, Maryland’s number-one ranked public schools are leading the way in preparing our children for a better future.”

State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery said the results point to the important work taking place in our classrooms, providing strong instruction for all students. “Our teachers, our administrators, our parents, and our students are working together to move schools forward,” she said. “Education is the cornerstone to Maryland’s future, and I believe we’re building a strong foundation for decades to come.”

What’s New in this Year’s Release?

Today’s data release marks the first under Maryland’s recently granted flexibility regarding the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Under NCLB law, all students must be scoring at proficient levels by 2014, and progress toward that goal was gauged by a statewide measurement known as Adequate Yearly Progress. Under Maryland’s new “School Progress” plan, each school is measured against its own targets, and must work to strengthen achievement across all subgroups.

This year’s data begins a new baseline, and schools and systems will work to cut in half over the next six years the percentage of students not scoring at proficient levels on the exams. As in the past, the accountability system measures all students as well as racial subgroups and groups of students receiving additional services, such as special education and English language learners. Schools and systems must work to hit improvement targets, known as annual measureable objectives (AMOs). AMOs will be calculated for the student population in each school as well as for special service and racial subgroups.

Gone are the categories of “School Improvement,” under which schools were sanctioned for not making progress. Maryland’s plan now focuses special attention on those schools with the most difficulty, but the requirement for restructuring and other sanctions is no longer part of the equation.

Under the School Progress calculation, nearly 85 percent (84.8 percent) of Maryland schools met the AMO targets for this baseline year. The targets will continue to rise over through the next six years.

More 2012 Results

Steady improvement on the Maryland School Assessment goes well beyond the increase in the percentage of students scoring at the proficient level. There has been an important jump in the percentage of students achieving the “advanced” mark on the exams, indicating that students and teachers are moving well beyond rudimentary understanding of learning concepts.

Over the past decade, advanced scores have increased across the board. For example:

• The percentage of elementary students scoring at the advanced levels in reading has doubled since 2003 to 36.4 percent.

• At the middle school level, the percentage of students scoring at the advanced levels in reading has nearly doubled over that same time period, to 43.9 percent.

• The increase in elementary students scoring in the advanced levels in mathematics has tripled since 2003, and also now stands at 40.3 percent.

• The percentage of middle schoolers scoring at the advanced levels in mathematics has more than doubled, to 31.8 percent.

Improvement also is apparent among students receiving special services, such as English language learners and special education students. The percentage of English language learners at the elementary grades scoring at proficient levels in reading has jumped from 69.1 percent in 2008 to 77.8 percent this year, for example, while the percentage of middle school special education students judged proficient in reading has moved from 43.5 percent in 2008 to 51 percent in 2012.

But there are challenges, particularly at the middle school level, where reading scores for the special services subgroup flattened or declined in the past year.

Dr. Lowery said that attention must be paid to the learning needs of students if schools are to take the next leap forward. “These students represent our most challenging populations, and the trend is positive,” she said. “But significant achievement gaps remain in Maryland, as they do across the nation. Our schools are committed to strengthening instruction in these areas to make certain each student is reaching his or her potential.”

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