Title I Schools Continue Progress in Reading & Math

August 18, 2003
Updated 8-21-03

The 10 elementary schools with the highest levels of student poverty and among the greatest student diversity in Montgomery County have made significant progress in reading and mathematics, addressing the requirements of the Maryland State Department of Education's implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The schools achieved passing rates this past year in all but just 9 of the 160 performance areas.

All of the 10 schools achieved the required passing standards in reading and mathematics for nearly all of the major subgroups of students -- Asian American, African American, Hispanic, white, and students participating in the Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS). The lone exception in these subgroups was the assessment area of reading among Hispanic and FARMS students at just one school.

“The progress made thus far by the heavily impacted Title I schools continues to be impressive,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, in a report to the Board of Education. He said the challenges facing these schools have “required exceptional work by the principals, teachers, and support staff to make incremental gains.”

Based on results of the Maryland School Assessments (MSA) taken last spring, three schools -- Broad Acres Elementary, Burnt Mills Elementary, adn Summit Hall Elementary -- achieved passing rates in all of the required categories and are poised next year to come off the list of federally funded Title I schools identified for improvement if they continue to progress. (Summit Hall was added to the list on August 21 after the state acknowledged an error in the data calculations.)

Six of the remaining seven Title I schools passed 15 of the 16 assessment areas assigned to each school, and the eighth school passed 14 of the 16 assessments.

Consequently, each of these schools will be required to provide supplemental services for at least two more years, such as tutoring or mentoring at a parent's request. The assessment areas in which standards were not met in these eight schools occurred almost exclusively among small subgroups of students with limited English proficiency or disabilities.

In fact, each of the schools achieved the state's schoolwide passing standard, “a notable achievement given the immense challenges facing all of these schools,” Dr. Weast said.

Based on initial performance data, one Title I school -- Wheaton Woods Elementary -- appeared ready to be taken off the school improvement list entirely for the upcoming year because of its recent success a year ago on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP). However, a recalculation of the new test data identified a single performance area in reading among students with limited English proficiency that did not meet the state standard.

As a consequence, Wheaton Woods will now be required to stay on the school improvement list for two more years. “The school's earlier accomplishments will no longer be counted toward the goal of adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years because of this year's break in annual progression, a stipulation that seems unduly restrictive and punitive,” said Dr. Weast, “given the overall success of the school's improvement efforts.”

By definition, the federally funded Title I schools have the highest level of poverty in the school system, along with significantly high concentrations of racial and ethnic diversity and students with limited English proficiency.

Broad Acres Elementary, for example, had 519 students last year, with a white student enrollment of less than 1 percent, a Hispanic student enrollment of 64 percent, an African American student enrollment of 19 percent, an Asian American student enrollment of 16 percent, and a FARMS rate of 88 percent. The school's mobility rate -- meaning the number of students who come and go during the school year -- was approximately 27 percent, about the same as the percentage of students participating in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

Other Highlights

* The performance standards being imposed on the schools will continue to rise on a yearly basis as the state implements its long-range requirements for annual yearly progress in student achievement. The provisions of the federal law are such that each of the 18 specific subgroups within a school also must achieve the required passing rates in order for a school to meet all of the necessary performance standards.

* Moreover, each of the schools must achieve the required standards for two consecutive years to avoid implementation of required improvement provisions. All of the schools already have been implementing some of these improvement provisions, such as the school choice option that allows parents to send their child to another designated school. For the upcoming school year, parents requested the choice option for 121 students, among the more than 5,000 eligible students enrolled in the 10 schools.

* The provision of supplemental services such as tutoring and mentoring will require special parental notification as the school year begins, and efforts are under way to assist the individual schools in completing the necessary parental notifications in a timely manner, with concurrent language translations as necessary.

* The focus on the specific progress of different subgroups of students -- particularly those with limited English proficiency -- will affect many schools in the school system, not just the Title I schools, as the state and federal accountability standards move forward. The performance measures require specific gains each year for individual subgroups of students, in addition to the overall progress of the school. This is an important consideration for Montgomery County, given the growing diversity of the school system's enrollment and the fact that the system enrolls nearly half of all students in Maryland who participate in English language instruction.

* The ongoing achievements of these schools reflect the continued impact of reform efforts implemented over the past several years to improve student performance, build progressively stronger academic programs, and expand opportunities for incremental success each year, especially in reading and mathematics.

* The reforms have targeted more than just the Title I schools and include 60 elementary schools that are located in the areas of Montgomery County from Takoma Park to Germantown that encompass the greatest level of poverty and diversity in language, race, and ethnicity. The attendance areas of these schools, representing less than half of the county's total number of elementary schools, have 81 percent of all elementary students in the federal meals program systemwide, 71 percent of the English language learners, 79 percent of the Hispanic students, 72 percent of the African American students, 48 percent of the Asian American students, and 29 percent of the white students.

* More detailed data is expected later this week, when the state releases the results of last spring's assessments for Grades 3, 5, 8, and 10.

See links below for PDF copies of the report and a chart of individual school performance. [Please note that the change in data, as referenced above, for Summit Hall Elementary is not reflected in the attached materials.]

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