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Early Childhood Reforms Produce Student Test Gains

March 8, 2005
For the first time ever, more than 71 percent of Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2 students are reading at or above grade level by the end of the school year, according to Montgomery County Public Schools testing data.

It is the third consecutive year that primary students have posted higher scores than the students in the prior class, indicating that comprehensive reform efforts implemented in 2000 are having a dramatic impact on student performance. Among kindergartners, 71 percent are meeting the benchmark for reading while 74 percent of first graders and 72 percent of second graders are hitting the target.

Performance Gap Narrows

Especially noteworthy are the performances of African American and Hispanic students. The increases in the percentage of African American and Hispanic students achieving the reading benchmarks were higher than the increases of Asian American and White students in all three grades.

“Five years ago, we set out to give every student a strong foundation to learn and succeed in school. We believed if we set high expectations for students and gave them high quality teachers, smaller classes, and a rigorous curriculum that they would thrive. And thrive they have,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “We’re seeing dramatic growth and progress every single year among all of our students and we’re especially seeing it among African American and Hispanic students as they close the achievement gap.”

"Our targeted investments are clearly paying off in improved test scores and closing the minority achievement gap," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. "The budget I present next week will provide the necessary funding to continue this extraordinary success in our public schools."

In Kindergarten, the percentage of students meeting end-of-year reading benchmarks has grown from 39 percent in 2001 to 71 percent in 2004. Significantly, the greatest growth by group in Kindergarten was among disadvantaged students and students for whom English is not their first language. The achievement gap also has narrowed the most between African American and White students in Kindergarten—now measuring only 6 points.

In Grade 1, African American student performance on the reading benchmark tests increased by 19 percentage points from 49 percent in 2002 to 68 percent in 2004. Hispanic students posted an 18 percentage point gain from 38 percent in 2002 to 56 percent in 2004.

In Grade 2, African American and Hispanic students saw 22 and 26 percentage point gains, respectively, on the Grade 2 assessments over the three-year period. Their Asian and White counterparts saw gains of 17 and 16 percentage points, respectively.

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