MCPS Students Perform at High Level on State Exams

July 23, 2013
Misaligned Tests Cause Drop in MSA Performance

Students from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) performed at a high level on the 2013 Maryland School Assessments (MSA) but, like the state of Maryland, saw an overall drop in performance on the standardized tests. 

Two main reasons for the drop in MSA performance are that the tests are not aligned to the Common Core State Standards—which MCPS has already begun implementing—and that the state is no longer offering a modified assessment for students with disabilities.

The Maryland State Board of Education has adopted the internationally benchmarked Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as the foundation for math and reading curricula across the state. However, the state tests have not changed and, in some areas, are not aligned to what students are being taught anymore. MCPS is ahead of many other districts across the state in implementing the Common Core.

“For several years, MCPS has been actively aligning our teaching and learning with the Common Core State Standards, which lay out clear expectations for what our students need to know and should be able to do in the 21
st century,” said Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr. “We cannot overly concern ourselves with results on lame duck tests that are not lined up with what our students are being taught."

In elementary grades, the percent of MCPS students who scored at the proficient or advanced levels on the 2013 MSA was 89.7 percent in reading and 84.5 percent in mathematics, down 2.0 and 5.2 percentage points respectively. In middle grades, the percent of MCPS students who scored at the proficient or advanced levels was 89.3 percent in reading (up 0.4 percentage points) and 77.9 percent in mathematics (down 3.3 percentage points).

Statewide, the percent of elementary school students scoring at the proficient and advanced levels in reading was 86.4 percent (a decrease of 1.8 percentage points), and in mathematics was 83.9 percent (a decrease of 3.8 percentage points). The percentage of Maryland middle school students scoring at the proficient or advanced levels in reading was 83.4 percent (an increase of 1.3 percentage points) and in mathematics was 72.2 percent (a decrease of 4.0 percentage points).

Misaligned Tests

This misalignment between the MSA and the Common Core was most notable in Grade 3 Mathematics, where MCPS saw a 12.1 percentage point drop in performance from 2012.

MCPS has fully implemented the CCSS in Kindergarten through Grade 3 as a part of its elementary grades curriculum, called Curriculum 2.0. MCPS Grade 3 students showed significant gains in MSA performance in the areas of Algebra, Patterns, and Functions, which the CCSS emphasizes in the early grades. However, third-grade students saw the biggest decrease in MSA performance in Geometry and Measurement, which the CCSS does not heavily emphasize in early grades.

In two years, MCPS—and all other Maryland districts—are expected to transition to new assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which will be aligned to the Common Core.

“There’s nothing wrong with our students, our teachers, or our curriculum,” Dr. Starr said. "Once the new assessments, aligned to the Common Core, are fully implemented, we’ll be able to use the results to conduct meaningful analyses and have conversations about teaching and learning. Until then, we’ll continue to focus on providing our teachers with the resources, training, and support they need to effectively teach to the Common Core.”

Modified MSA

In MCPS, and across the state, the 2013 MSA results were also impacted by the elimination of the Modified MSA (Mod-MSA), which was given to selected students with disabilities.

Special education students saw some of the biggest one-year declines in performance. However, their performance would have been significantly better if the Mod-MSA had been administered. For instance, in middle grades reading, 62.8 percent of special education students scored proficient or higher on the MSA, a drop of 3.7 percentage points from 2012. However, if the Mod-MSA had been administered, it is estimated that 67 percent of special education students would have scored proficient or higher, an increase of 0.5 percentage points from 2012.

Preliminary MSA Results for MCPS

State Press Release

Maryland Report Card

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