County Middle Schools Make Notable Gains on Maryland School Performance Assessment Program

December 4, 2000
The overall gain in eighth grade student performance on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) - the largest gain among the three grade levels tested - was fueled by increases among 25 middle schools, more than three-fourths of the middle schools in Montgomery County.

Twenty-three of the county middle schools rank among the top 100 middle schools throughout the state and seven schools are among the top 25 middle schools in Maryland. Four schools (Cabin John, Herbert Hoover, Robert Frost and Thomas W. Pyle) have surpassed the satisfactory standard of 70 percent. Six additional schools (John T. Baker, Redland, Ridgeview, Rosa M. Parks, Tilden and Westland) are approaching the standard.

Cabin John Middle School achieved the top middle school score for the county (78.3 percent at satisfactory), followed closely by Herbert Hoover Middle school (78.2 percent). Cabin John and Hoover hold state ranks of three and four, respectively.

The MSPAP is administered statewide to students in grades 3, 5, and 8. The annual tests require students to apply their knowledge of reading, writing, language usage, mathematics, science and social studies across subject areas.

Local middle schools posted an overall gain of 2.1 points from last year. Eighth grade students made particularly strong one-year gains in social studies (55.7 to 60.4 percent at satisfactory) and writing (56.1 to 61.7 percent), with smaller gains in language usage (59.9 to 61.1 percent) and reading (34.2 to 35.6 percent). Scores in mathematics (66.1 to 66.0 percent) and science (63.3 to 62.4 percent) declined slightly.

Mirroring a pattern statewide, reading scores in eighth grade have shown little improvement since the MSPAP began in 1993. Although overall reading gains were small again this year, the scores from 17 middle schools contributed to the improvement in the reading subtest scores.

Changes and improvements have been under way in the county middle school education program designed to address concerns that the curriculum needs to be more challenging to all students. A recent report to the Board of Education outlined a number of specific curriculum changes that have begun, prioritized areas for improvement, and formalized efforts to improve professional training and collaboration.

Nancy Schultze, director of middle school instruction, is encouraged by the MSPAP results. "We certainly understand that the job is not complete," she says, "but the results do indicate that when you align curriculum to assessment, when you focus and when resources align with that focus, positive results can be achieved."

The total county composite score of 55.4 for grades 3, 5 and 8 moved the school system from fifth to fourth place among the state's 24 jurisdictions and maintained the system's position as the highest performing large district in Maryland.

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