For the Cumberland Times-News
CUMBERLAND — Trending with the rest of the state, Maryland School Assessment scores took a slight step back for Allegany County public school students in 2013, as the school system moves forward with the new Common Core learning standards.
The percentage of elementary students scoring at the proficient levels in reading dropped slightly from 90.8 percent in 2012 to 88.9 percent this year, while the percentage of elementary students scoring in the proficient levels in mathematics fell from 90.6 percent to 84.7 percent, according to the Allegany County Board of Education.
The percentage of middle school students scoring at proficient levels in reading improved from 79.5 percent to 82.2 percent, while mathematics scores in the proficient range dropped from 80.5 percent to 77.2 percent. State level results indicate the same decreases for reading and math at the elementary level and an increase in reading and a decrease in math at the middle school level.
These results speak directly to the transitioning changes that have been occurring across Allegany County, the state and the U.S., the board of education said. Moves to implement the new Common Core State Standards in both reading and math have caused a misalignment of current curriculum and assessments. New assessments will not be aligned to the curriculum until the 2014-2015 school year. According to State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery, “This misalignment will certainly affect our scores this year and next.”
School improvement is no longer a sanction for schools not achieving Adequate Yearly Progress. Maryland’s new plan focuses special attention on schools with the most difficulty, but the requirement for restructuring and other sanctions is no longer part of the equation. Under the school progress calculation, 88.9 percent of Allegany County public schools met the Annual Measurable Objective targets for achievement for this baseline year. The targets will continue to rise through 2017.
Maryland teachers and principals began implementing the Common Core State Standards to a large degree last school year, and the transition will be complete in the 2013-2014 school year. Schools this coming year will be field testing the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessments that are aligned to the Common Core. The new tests, under development by Maryland and 21 other states for the past four years, measure the critical content and skills embedded in the new standards.
The PARCC assessments, which are computer-based, will test writing skills at every grade level, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Plans are for the new exams to be field-tested in every Maryland school in 2013-2014, although only in certain grades.
Also affecting this year’s MSA scores is the end of the Modified Maryland School Assessment for special education students. More than 80 Allegany County special education students, about 2 percent of the testing population, took the general assessment for the first time in 2013.
“Our entire instructional staff, including teachers, principals and all other instructional leaders continue to work tirelessly as we embrace and implement the rigorous Common Core curriculum,” said Superintendent of Schools David Cox.
Results on the MSA have improved dramatically over the past decade. Since the 2003 and 2004 school years, there have been gains in:
• Elementary reading from 63.1 percent to 88.9 percent proficient.
• Elementary mathematics from 59.4 percent to 84.7 percent.
• Middle school reading from 62.1 percent to 82.2 percent.
• Middle school mathematics from 36.7 percent to 77.2 percent.
The 2013 MSA scores released by the Maryland State Department of Education are available at www.mdreportcard.org.