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Students' Scores Higher on Maryland School Assessment

July 15, 2008
MCPS Students Achieve Sixth Consecutive Year of Higher Scores on Maryland School Assessment

African American and Hispanic Students Make
Significant Strides in Narrowing the Achievement Gap


English Language Learners and Special Education Students Also Post Gains

ROCKVILLE, MD – Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students in elementary and middle school posted significant gains on the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) while achievement gaps between African American and Hispanic students and their white and Asian American peers continued to narrow, according to Maryland State Department of Education data released Tuesday. All student subgroups have shown substantial increases in scores over the last six years.

Among elementary students, 89.9 percent scored at the proficient or advanced level for reading and 87.2 percent for mathematics. Among middle school students, 86.3 percent scored at the proficient or advanced level for reading and 76.9 percent for mathematics. All grade levels and all subgroups achieved positive growth in student performance, indicating that MCPS is well-positioned to meet the No Child Left Behind Act 2014 proficiency targets.

“The Board of Education has focused intensely on closing the achievement gap and increasing performance for all students so it is gratifying to see our students scoring so well on the MSA,” said Board of Education President Nancy Navarro. “It is clear that our reform efforts over the last nine years are showing significant results.”

“It is extraordinarily encouraging to see our students’ continued progress every year and to see the achievement gap shrink,” said Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “We have much more work to do to ensure that every student achieves at high levels, but today’s news along with numerous other measures show that we are putting more students on the path to success than ever before.”

The most notable gains by grade level in reading proficiency occurred in Grades 5, 7, and 8:
• In Grade 5, proficiency rates increased 7.8 percentage points over last year, to 91.2 percent proficient.
• In Grade 7, rates increased 8.0 percentage points, to 88.2 percent.
• In Grade 8, rates increased 6.1 percentage points, to 83.2 percent.

The mathematics proficiency rates also increased for all grade levels since last year, most notably in Grades 7 and 8.
• Grade 7 proficiency rates increased 3.7 percentage points, to 77.2 percent.
• In Grade 8, proficiency rates increased 5.7 percentage points, to 73.1 percent.
• Proficiency rates in Grades 3 through 6 also increased in 2008, ranging from a high of 89.9 percent in Grade 4 to 80.4 percent in Grade 6.

Overall, while the test data show that performance gaps continue for racial/ethnic groups, the gap has significantly narrowed since 2003 between the highest and lowest scoring subgroups. In some cases, the gap in proficiency rates shrank as much as 24 percentage points. The narrowing of the gap is due to the accelerating rate of proficiency for African American and Hispanic students over the last six years. For example, since 2003, the performance of Hispanic and African American students in third grade reading increased 36.2 and 27.8 percentage points, respectively.

While the six-year gains for African American and Hispanic students are impressive, even the gains over last year (2007) are noteworthy. For example, in 2008, while there was an overall increase of 3.7 percentage points in reading, the largest gains were seen by Hispanics (6.5 percent) and by African Americans (5.8 percent). In Grade 5, Hispanics saw the largest gain in reading with an increase of 14.8 percentage points, followed by African Americans with a 12.4 percentage point increase.

In middle school, there was an overall 6.0 percentage point increase in reading, with the largest gains seen by Hispanics with a 10.3 percentage point increase and by African-Americans with a 10.0 percentage point increase. In Grade 7, Hispanics saw the largest gain in reading with a 13.9 percentage point increase followed by Grade 7 African Americans with a percentage point increase of 13.7.

In elementary school, there was an overall 1.7 percentage point increase in math, with the largest gains seen by African Americans (3.3 percentage points) and by Hispanics (2.6 percentage points). In Grade 5, African Americans saw the largest gain in math with an increase of 6.4 percentage points.

In middle school, there was an overall 3.8 percentage point increase in math with the largest gains seen by Hispanics and African Americans, both with a 6.1 percentage point increase. In Grade 7, African-Americans saw a gain of 7.5 percentage points and Hispanics gained 6.5 percentage points. In Grade 8, Hispanics gained 9.8 percentage points and African-Americans gained 8.1 percentage points.

The patterns of performance among students who receive Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS), special education, or limited English proficiency (LEP) support services also reflect continued gains overall, most often at a rate greater than that of students not receiving special services. Disparities in performance remain between students who receive such services and those who do not, although this gap continues to narrow at several levels. Most striking are the performance gains in reading made by Grade 5 elementary LEP students, whose performance increased 24.5 percentage points. In math, the largest gain made by LEP students came in Grade 8, where the performance of these students increased by 9.2 percentage points.

Among students served in special education programs, reading proficiency increased by 7.0 percentage points at the elementary level, with the biggest jump among Grade 5 students (13.4 percentage points). At the middle school level, special education students’ reading proficiency increased by 13.2 percentage points, with the largest gain in Grade 7 (21.8 percentage points).

Detailed tables with student performance by subgroup are attached.

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