MCPS Performance Drops on State Algebra Exams, Consistent With Statewide Results

MCPS Performance Drops on State Algebra Exams, Consistent With Statewide Results

Montgomery students perform above state average in all content areas

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Montgomery County students scored higher than the state average in all categories of state tests issued last school year, but declined in student performance on algebra 1 and 10th-grade English exams.

About 3.5% fewer scored a 4 or 5 on the 10th-grade English exam and 7.1% fewer earned top marks on the algebra test, according to new state data released Tuesday. The drop in algebra performance was the second-largest behind the Anne Arundel County school district, which experienced a 10.5% drop.

Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests are administered annually to students in third through eighth grades on English and algebra content. Student outcomes are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with marks of 4 and 5 indicating students are proficient in the content.

The 2018-19 school year was the final year PARCC tests will be used. The state this year will transition to new Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) exams. MCAP tests will focus on the same content with new items developed by state teachers, according to the state Department of Education.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, MCPS officials highlighted that local participation in the algebra 1 test reached a “historic high” in 2019.

Increases in the number of participants were greatest in eighth grade, specifically among students who received English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services, special education services, and free and reduced-priced meals and among black and Hispanic students.

The number of “valid scores” recorded on the algebra exam increased by more than 4,700 between 2015 and 2019, according to MCPS.

“These state assessments are just one of several important measures that help us monitor student progress and achievement,” MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith wrote in a statement. “We are pleased to see continued gains in student participation and performance. However, we know more must be done to address areas where we are seeing decreases in performance and ensure all students have the access, opportunity and intentional instruction they need to be successful.”

Statewide, performance on the math and algebra 1 exams declined, as well.

At a Maryland State Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, when the test results were released, State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said, “We have some real work to do” to improve math outcomes.

Montgomery County students’ performance on third- through eighth-grade math tests remained about equal to the year prior and third- through eighth-grade English scores increased 2.2%, according to state data.

About half of MCPS students in third through fifth grade were proficient on the math exam, while about 32% of students in sixth through eighth grade were proficient on the test — a 5.6% decrease from the year prior.

More than 52 percent of students in third through fifth grade received a 4 or 5 score on the English Language Arts test, posting a 4.2 percentage-point increase since 2016, MCPS said in its news release. Fifty-four percent of students in sixth through eighth grade scored a 4 or 5.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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