A recent press release from Harford County Public Schools gave an overview of the results from the 2011 Maryland School Assessment – tests in reading and math which are given each year to public school students in grades three through eight. Here’s a closer look at the major gains and losses among the county’s 32 elementary and nine middle schools:
The Good News
Two Harford elementary schools reportedly achieved 100% proficiency rates in at least one tested area. Darlington and Dublin elementary schools, both located in the northern part of the county, each had 100% of tested students scoring “proficient” on the fifth grade reading exam; Dublin also had a perfect proficiency rate in fourth grade reading.*
Students in Maryland are considered proficient if their scores on the state tests are above the level of “basic”, as determined by the state. No Child Left Behind, the federal law mandating state testing, requires 100% of public school students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014.
Magnolia Elementary in Edgewood showed whopping gains in third grade math – the school’s proficiency rate leapt nearly 25 percentage points over last year, with 87.3% of students proficient in 2011.
Bakerfield Elementary in Aberdeen saw the fourth grade proficiency rate in math jump over 16 percentage points from last year to nearly 95%.
Roye Williams Elementary in Havre de Grace had proficiency rate gains in third grade reading of nearly 12 percentage points, to 88.1%. Proficiency rates jumped by ten percentage points in third grade reading at Bel Air and in fourth grade math at North Harford Elementary, bringing both sets of scores into the nineties.
Among the county middle schools, Magnolia Middle School showed the largest increase – up 9 percentage points in the proficiency rates for sixth and eighth grade math – the gains took the school’s proficiency rates into the low seventies and low sixties in those grades, respectively.
The Bad News: Losing Ground on the Road to 100% Proficiency By 2014
Sharp drops in proficiency rates occurred at a number of county elementary schools in 2011, but nowhere as much as at Deerfield Elementary in Edgewood. Proficiency rates at the school dropped by ten percentage points or more in all but one of the six tested areas. Most notable was a drop of over 21 percentage points for fifth grade math, bringing the proficiency rate down to 54.6%.
Proficiency rates dropped by more than 10 percentage points at several county schools, particularly in fifth grade math and third grade reading.
Fifth grade math was a problem at tiny Darlington Elementary, with the proficiency rate skidding nearly 20 percentage points to 75%, despite the school’s strong showing in fifth grade reading.
Churchville Elementary also lost ground in the proficiency rate for fifth grade math, going from the mid-nineties last year to 78.8% in 2011, and dropping approximately ten percentage points in reading in both third and fifth grade. Bel Air, which had strong gains in third grade reading, showed a drop of 11 percentage points in the proficiency rate for fifth grade math.
Dublin Elementary’s proficiency rate in third grade reading dropped over 16 points to 78.4%. Riverside Elementary and George D. Lisby Elementary in Aberdeen each lost 10 percentage points in third grade reading and fourth grade reading, respectively.
Among the county middle schools, Aberdeen Middle showed the sharpest decline in proficiency rates, falling from the high eighties to the high seventies in sixth grade reading.
Schools in Need of Improvement
Four of the county’s nine middle schools are now on the Maryland State Department of Education’s list of “Schools in Improvement”. Magnolia Middle School joins the list this year along with Aberdeen Middle, which has been on the list since 2008. Both schools are designated by the state to have “comprehensive needs”, meaning students there will need substantial help in meeting achievement goals. Havre de Grace and North Harford middle schools, which have been on the list since 2009, are designated as having “focused needs”, meaning they are closer to meeting achievement goals.
Two of the county’s elementary schools remain on the improvement list. Although Magnolia Elementary showed big improvements in some tested areas, the school stays on the list, along with William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon. Students at both of these Title I schools will be offered tutoring beginning next year and will continue to have the option of enrolling in a designated county school that is not on the state improvement list.
Known as “school choice”, the option complicated efforts by HCPS earlier in the year to balance elementary school enrollment because the number of affected students is unknown in future years. In the 2010-11 school year, students at Magnolia Elementary were given the option to attend Riverside or Joppatowne Elementary. Students at William Paca/Old Post Road were able to choose Deerfield or William S. James elementary schools.
More detailed results from the 2011 Maryland School Assessment and longer term trends for each Harford County elementary and middle school can be found here: http://mdreportcard.org/rschool.aspx?K=12AAAA&WDATA=school
*The 100% proficiency rates for Darlington and Dublin elementary schools were taken from published reports in the June 30, 2011 Baltimore Sun. The Maryland State Department of Education does not report precise proficiency rates above 95% and below 5%, due to federal privacy laws.