Montgomery County Public Schools students performed above state averages across the board, but the percentage of students passing standardized tests in high school has decreased since 2017, according to new data.
The complete 2018 Maryland assessment results for students across the state were released Tuesday in a presentation before the Maryland State Board of Education in Baltimore.
Statewide, the percent of students attaining a performance level of 4 or 5 on English Language Arts exams in grades three through eight improved 1 percentage point over the last school year to 41.6 percent. The percent of students scoring at performance level 4 or 5 on mathematics in grade three through eight also increased 1 percentage point to 34.1 percent.
The tests are scored on a 650-to-850-point scale, which has been translated into five performance levels, with level 1 set as not meeting expectations and level 5 set as exceeding expectations. Performance level 4 or 5 is considered “proficient” on the assessment by the state board. However, testing into the third performance category is good enough to meet the state’s graduation requirement.
“The PARCC assessments are one of several important measures that help us monitor student progress and achievement,” MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “We are pleased to see continued gains in student participation and performance. However, we know more must be done to ensure all students have the access, opportunity and intentional instruction they need to be successful.”
Some highlights of the 2017-2018 administration of the tests:
Thirteen of Maryland’s 24 public school systems saw improvements in English language arts scores for elementary and middle school students. In Montgomery County, the number of elementary school students passing the English test, 51.2 percent, ticked up slightly since last year with an increase of 1.3 percentage points.
MCPS broke the assessment results down further, finding that more than 50 percent of students in grades three through five passed the exams, a 5.4 percentage point increase since 2015, when the tests were first administered. More than 51 percent of students in grades six through eight passed the exam, according to an MCPS press release.
In 10th grade, 42.4 percent of students statewide passed the English exam, a drop of 6.9 percentage points since 2017.
Montgomery County, along with several other counties in the state, saw a sharp drop in the percentage of students passing the Grade 10 English exam. In Montgomery County, the number of students passing the exam dropped by 8 percentage points compared to a year earlier. About 56.2 percent of county 10th– graders passed the exam, placing Montgomery County seventh in the state on that indicator.
A State Department of Education analysis of the Grade 10 scores on English exams concluded the drop in passage rates is partly the result of a large number of students re-taking the tests. There were more than 14,700 repeat test takers in 2018 who failed to meet expectations upon retaking the exam, according to the state. A similar trend was found in the numbers for students taking the Algebra I exam in high school, according to the department.
Last school year was the second year students needed to meet a passing minimum score on the Algebra I and the 10th grade English exams to meet the state’s graduation requirement. Of the Montgomery County students taking the 10th grade English exam, 76.6 percent met the graduation requirement of a score at Level 3 or higher; 79.8 percent of middle schoolers who took the Algebra I exam met the graduation requirement, as well as 40.5 percent of the high school students who took the exam.
Statewide, 34.1 percent of students in third- through eighth-grade passed the math exam, a 1 percentage point increase from a year earlier. Nine school systems in the state saw an increase in the percentage of elementary and middle school students passing the math exam.
In Montgomery County, 44.2 percent of elementary and middle school students met or exceeded expectations on math exams. That also represents a slight increase, 1.1 percentage points, over last year. Montgomery County was ranked seventh in the state for its passage rate.
MCPS said 50.2 percent of students in grades three through five scored at a performance level of 4 or 5 last year, compared to the statewide average of 39.5 percent. About 33.7 percent of students in sixth through eighth grade passed the exam, compared to 26.9 percent statewide, according to MCPS.
Across the state, fewer than a third of students, about 31.2 percent, who took the Algebra I exam passed. That figure represents a 5.3 percentage point decrease from a year earlier.
The percentage of MCPS students passing the state’s Algebra I exam decreased by 2.3 percentage points; about 40.6 percent of students met or exceeded expectations. Montgomery County ranked ninth in the state for this measure.
The county also saw an increased number of students taking the Algebra I course, as eighth-grade students continued to be given the opportunity to access the test before high school. Middle-school Algebra I exam participation reached a record high of 10,918 valid scores, according to the school system.
There continue to be racial and socioeconomic disparities among students in the state and county when it comes to performance on standardized tests.
Statewide, black students, on average, scored about 30 percentage points lower than white students on the elementary and middle school English exams. The achievement gap for students in Grade 10 was greater, with black students scoring about 38.7 percentage points lower than white students.
In mathematics, the achievement gap between the scores of black and white students in elementary and middle school was about 33.2 percentage points, and the gap on high school Algebra I exams was 39 percentage points, according to the data.
Students with disabilities, those who are learning English as a second language, or those who qualify for free or reduced school lunches also scored lower than state averages on the standardized tests, according to the report.
Information broken down by student group, county and school is available online.
Improvement over time
The Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program exams, which utilize materials developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), are more rigorous than the Maryland School Assessment tests they replaced in 2015.
According to the State Department of Education, since the first PARCC-based tests were administered in 2015, performance has improved. The biggest mathematics gains have come in grades four, five and seven, while the top improvements in English language arts testing scores have been registered in grades four, seven and 10, according to the department.