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Performance Levels Dip on 2013 MSAs

Earlier this week, the Maryland State Department of Education presented the 2013 Maryland School Assessment (MSA) score reports at its annual July board meeting. This report analyzes achievement levels for math and reading as demonstrated on the standardized, state-wide examination administered this past March among students in grades K~8. Insights from science MSA given to 5th and 8th graders are not yet released. Test results for reading and math MSAs are also presented with information about student demographics and geography. For educators across the state, this year’s report reflects a noticeable decline in academic mastery. In Montgomery County, with the exception of middle school reading, subject proficiency rates have declined across the board.

Though Montgomery County is still enthroned in the top-seat of test achievement around Maryland, compared to past years, math proficiency rates for elementary and middle school students dropped by respectively 5.2% and 3.3%, while elementary school reading proficiency levels declined by 2.0%. This figure is mostly in line with statistics for the state.

MCPS Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr recently attributed the declining performance of MCPS to the termination of modified/alternative assessments for students with learning disabilities, in addition to newly-adopted ‘common core’ values which redesigned courses to include accelerated material. According to the score report, the most significant decrease in proficiency rates occurred among students with disabilities, who were required to take the regular exam this year, though with accommodations.

With regards to curriculum changes, Dr. Starr agreed that while MCPS may not be teaching to the test, students are more exposed to advanced learning material.

“There’s nothing wrong with our students, our teachers, or our curriculum,” Dr. Starr said. “Once the new assessments, aligned to the Common Core, are fully implemented, we’ll be able to use the results to conduct meaningful analyses and have conversations about teaching and learning.

In addition to score drops among students receiving special education, English for Second Language (ESOL) students also demonstrated a decreased proficiency rate for reading. Furthermore, traditionally disadvantaged ethnic minorities experienced a great score decline, while students eligible or enrolled in the Free-And-Reduced-Meal (FARM) plan achieved higher performance levels.

Britney, a student at Gaithersburg Middle School, described the assessments as “not that hard, but demanding in terms of stamina.”

“I didn’t think the exams were any harder or different than those from past years. There’s still that zoo poem which you get every year, some questions were ambiguous, but overall it didn’t give me any panic.”

The MSAs are usually given in the spring of each school year. Test for each subject usually takes one week to be fully administered. Components of the reading MSA include vocabulary, comprehension, basic literary analysis, and inference-in-context. The math MSA focuses on algebra, statistics, and geometry.

Students should receive individual scores later this month. School reports will be updated on the web promptly. For more information and insights, visit the MCPS MSA report


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