Schools Continue Well Above National Average and Kindergarten Study Shows More Potential as Higher Targets on Tests are Recommended

June 25, 2001
The vast majority of elementary and middle schools continue to achieve school average scores at or above the national average on nationally normed assessment tests in reading, language, and mathematics in Grades 2, 4 and 6 posting results that are among the highest in Maryland, according to results released today [Monday, June 25].

At the same time, preliminary results of a kindergarten assessment in reading suggest that continued gains can be expected in the preparation and readiness of students for first grade that will have implications for greater success for Grade 2. (The full report is attached below as a pdf file.)

And, this evening, new standards and annual targets for student performance on state-mandated tests will be recommended to the Board of Education by Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. (See link below to the pdf file). The proposed targets include up to four-percentage-point gains for the lowest performing schools on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) and the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), among other measures.

“Although the targets are ambitious, they are attainable with significant effort,” said Dr. Weast in making the recommendations to the Board. He said the effect of the proposed targets is to have all Montgomery County schools achieve results equivalent to the top tier of schools in Maryland.

The latest systemwide test results released today show that students continued to excel on the CTBS, gaining seven percentile points in language mechanics in Grade 4 and matching last year’s performance in every other subject area at each grade level.

The continued high performance means that 97 percent of middle schools achieved average student scores in Grade 6 at or above the national average (50th percentile) in reading and mathematics; 84 percent achieved it in mathematics computation; 95 percent in language; and 100 percent in language mechanics. Similar high performance was achieved in fourth grade.

In second grade, most elementary schools surpassed the national average in all subject areas, but at a rate generally lower than that of the upper grades. In addition, a significantly large percentage of schools also had average scores above the 75th percentile, meaning that the average score was in the highest 25 percent nationally.

The difference between the performance in Grade 2 and the subsequent grades is consistent with findings about the readiness of students entering kindergarten. Earlier this year, a pre-test of kindergarten students revealed notable differences among students when the data were disaggregated by age, socioeconomic status, language proficiency, and race and ethnicity. The school system has significantly revised the kindergarten curriculum this year and implemented training for all kindergarten teachers to address these concerns.

The preliminary kindergarten assessment in reading released today found that by mid-year the majority of students were making gains in the basic literacy skills of hearing and recording sounds, letter identification, concepts about print, and word recognition.

The mid-year assessment found that the percentage of students at the lowest skill levels in letter identification (0-11 letters) fell from 20 percent to 5 percent, while the highest skill level (identification of 45-54 letters) increased from 41 percent to 76 percent. Similar gains were reported in the other skill levels, as well. A detailed report on the yearlong study is being prepared.

The long-term implications of the preliminary kindergarten study, coupled with the continued high performance already evident among elementary and middle schools on the CTBS, contribute to the effort to gain greater student achievement as other reform efforts are implemented.

The current effort to realign the pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8 curriculum, for example, will help schools prepare students for what they are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level, consistent with the state standards and assessments and available benchmarks from national and international standards. The expanded class-size reductions and additional full-day kindergarten programs, along with new instructional strategies being shared with teachers by school-based staff developers, also will have an impact on raising student performance to the high levels expected in the school system.

Patterns of a gap in student achievement by race/ethnicity continue to be evident in the new results of the CTBS. The results for Asian American and white students are higher than those for African American and Hispanic students. The lowest median percentile ranks for Asian American and white students were slightly higher than the highest ones for African American and Hispanic students. The range for the higher scoring groups was from the 68th to 90th percentile across grades and content areas. The range for the lower scoring groups was from the 34th to 65th percentile.

The majority of percentile ranks for Asian American and white students are in the top quarter nationally (76-99). The percentile ranks for African American and Hispanic students are almost equally divided across the four quarters of the national distribution, consistent with national norms.

Students receiving support services -- English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Free and Reduced-price Meals Support (FARMS), and Special Education -- scored substantially lower than students not receiving those services. The highest median national percentile ranks for these students across grades and content areas were below the lowest median national percentile rank for students not receiving these services.

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