Students Do Well in Reading and Writing but Lag Behind in Math

October 2, 2001
Eighth graders are doing well in the basic skills of writing, and seventh graders are doing even better in fundamental reading skills, but proficiency in elemental mathematics in seventh grade is lagging behind, according to new results of the Maryland Functional Tests.

Last year, 94 percent of seventh grade students passed the Maryland Functional Reading Test, and 87 percent of eighth graders passed the Maryland Writing Test. By comparison, 71 percent of seventh graders passed the Maryland Functional Mathematics Test. The tests assess minimum competency skills required to receive a state high school diploma.

This past summer, the Board of Education established higher standards of performance for middle schools on all three tests, which call for a passing rate of at least 90 percent on each test in each school.

All but five of the 35 middle schools (86 percent) met the new county standard in reading, while 18 schools (51 percent) met the new standard in writing. Two schools (6 percent) met the new mathematics standard. Herbert Hoover Middle School was the only middle school meeting the new county standard in all three tests.

The new county standard for the functional tests is considerably higher than the standard required by the state, which allows multiple retesting and counts the final passing rate at the end of ninth grade. (According to the most recent state data available for the 1999-2000 school year, the county surpassed the state’s excellent standard in Grade 9 on all three tests with passing rates of 98.9 percent in reading, 90.9 percent in mathematics, and 96 percent in writing.)

The breakdown of countywide results by racial/ethnic groups continues to reveal a gap on passing rates, particularly in mathematics. The difference in performance between Asian American and white students, compared with African American and Hispanic students, was about 12 percentage points in reading, 14 percentage points in writing, and 38 percentage points in mathematics.

There was little or no difference in performance by gender, except in writing, where female students had a 10-percentage-point lead over male students.

Students receiving support services -- English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS) and special education -- also scored lower than students not receiving these services, particularly on the mathematics test.

Although the performance of seventh grade students on the mathematics test has fluctuated more frequently than their performance on the reading test, the percentage of students passing these tests has remained relatively constant since 1994, the first time county seventh graders took the tests. The passing rates for the writing test have varied moderately since eighth graders first took the exam in 1997.

The new results for middle schools include the scores of general education students and special education students receiving fewer than 15 hours of services.

The full report on the tests is available online as a PDF file at the link below:

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