CTBS Results Improve -- All Areas At or Above the 64th Percentile

May 6, 2002
Students in Grades 2, 4, and 6 performed at or above last year’s results on nationally normed tests in reading, mathematics, and language, with all subject areas at or exceeding the 64th percentile nationally for the first time and more than half of all categories surpassing the 70th percentile.

At the same time, impressive gains were made by all racial and ethnic groups of students, particularly African American and Hispanic students. Only African American students were at or above all of the results for last year at all three grade levels. In fact, gains by African American students in Grade 6 in some subject areas were twice or more as large as the countywide increases.

“While there remains a significant difference in overall student performance by race and ethnicity, the new data underscore the continuing progress made in raising the bar for overall student achievement and closing the gap in targeted areas,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, in a report to the Board of Education today [Monday, May 6].

The gains by sixth grade students systemwide, especially a 10-point increase in mathematics computation, also demonstrate the success of schools in preparing students for the increased rigor expected in high school.

The new test results are from the spring 2002 administration of the nationally normed Terranova Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) and the Terranova California Achievement Tests (CAT). (In the spring of 2002, Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) replaced the CTBS in Grade 6 with the CAT.) These tests are used by MSDE the to evaluate student performance in reading, language, language mechanics, mathematics, and mathematics computation. MSDE includes CTBS/CAT results for schools and school districts as median national percentile ranks in its annual Maryland School Performance Program report card.

Test results for years prior to 2001 were computed differently by MSDE, rendering the 2001 results as the new baseline administration for current and future comparisons.

The improved results this year occurred with an enrollment growth of more than 2,700 students, including more children affected by poverty and learning English as a second language. In fact, while the total enrollment grew by 2 percent this year, there was a 4.7-percent increase in the percentage of students qualifying for the free breakfast and lunch program, which is a measure of the greatest level of poverty among students participating in the Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS).

The improvement in mathematics at each grade level is particularly noteworthy. For example, the 10-point improvement in math computation in Grade 6 now places student performance above the 70th percentile in this subject area at each grade level for the first time. This improvement reflects well on a mathematics program systemwide that has been undergoing a significant overhaul following the audit of the mathematics programs last year.

Overall, the results continue to be well above the national average in each grade level, and all of the systemwide results increased over last year. Highlights include the following for each grade level:

Grade 2 had the largest systemwide improvement in single subject area, a 13-point increase in language along with an eight-point increase in mathematics computation. In the other subject areas, students in Grade 2 maintained the previous year’s results. More analysis of the data, especially among individual schools, will be necessary to understand the results more clearly in relation to the early childhood initiatives. The gains reflect progress at a time when the Board of Education is continuing to strengthen and expand full-day kindergarten, reduce class sizes in Grades 1 and 2, implement a more rigorous curriculum and instructional program, and strengthen professional staff development.

Grade 4 increased by seven points overall in language mechanics. All other subject areas systemwide maintained the previous year’s results, which includes the overall achievement of four of the five subject areas scoring above the 70th percentile.

Grade 6 had the most gains systemwide. Five of the six subject areas increased, with math computations increasing by 10 points to the 70th percentile. All of the subject areas were at or above the 66th percentile.

More analysis will be necessary on the improvement among African American and Hispanic students, but the preliminary review demonstrates that the performance of African American and Hispanic students in Montgomery County is consistent with the performance of all students nationally. 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.

The national normative data are based on the performance of students who took the CTBS/CAT under standardized conditions. MSDE permitted students to take the Mathematics Computation subtest with a calculator if that accommodation was specified in their Individualized Education Program or 504 plan. A total of 1,532 students (5 percent of the students in Grades 2, 4, and 6 who took the Mathematics Computation subtest) used this accommodation. Their median percentile ranks were 68 in Grade 2, 62 in Grade 4, and 46 in Grade 6.

Students receiving support services ESOL, 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 ranks for students not receiving these services.

The highest median national percentile rank for ESOL students was 53, while the lowest for non-ESOL students was 65. The difference was similar for FARMS, with the highest median national percentile rank for students receiving this service being 55 and the lowest for non-FARMS students being 68. For special education services, the data are divided according to the number of hours of service each week. The lowest median national percentile rank for students not receiving special education services was 64. The highest median national percentile rank for the group with less intensive services (1 to 15 hours) was 62, while the highest median national percentile rank for the group with most intensive services (more than 15 hours) was 39.

A total of 119 elementary schools participated in the Grade 2 and Grade 4 CTBS testing. A total of 37 middle schools and two elementary schools participated in the Grade 6 CAT testing. The vast majority of these schools received a median national percentile rank at or above the national average, or 50th percentile. This is particularly true of middle schools -- over 90 percent of these schools reached this level of performance in all areas, except in Language Mechanics.

Note: The full report is available as a PDF file at the link below.

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