Maryland School Assessment (MSA) scores declined slightly across the state and in Charles County, according to data released today by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).
This is the final year of full MSA testing as school systems transition to the Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts/Literacy and mathematics. Next school year, Maryland school systems will test students with a combination of MSA and the new statewide assessment, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). All students will be assessed using PARCC in the 2014-15 school year.
In Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) elementary schools, 84.21 percent of students scored proficient or advanced on the reading MSA and 80.66 percent on the mathematics test, down from 2012 scores of 86.72 percent in reading and 85.42 percent in math. In middle schools, 81.63 percent of students scored proficient or advanced on the reading MSA, a decline of 1.23 percent. Students achieved 76.9 percent on the mathematics test, down from 80.44 percent in 2012.
The decreases this year stalled a decade of steady progress. CCPS composite elementary reading scores have increased 19.6 points since 2003 when Maryland launched MSA. Elementary mathematics proficiency has increased by 16.4 points, composite middle school reading scores are up 15.4 points and mathematics has risen 31 points.
The 2013 MSA results show a continued closing of the minority achievement gap by CCPS, which reduced the elementary reading gap from 10.6 points in 2011 to 10.2 points in 2013. Scores are expressed as the percentage of students in each system that scored at or above the proficiency levels set in 2003. Since 2003, CCPS has closed the achievement gap in elementary reading from 25.7 to 10.2 points.
State testing officials say the dip in scores was not unexpected, as the MSA does not align to the Common Core curriculum. For example, the fifth-grade math MSA tests heavily in the areas of geometry and statistics, which are no longer taught in depth at this level, said CCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Amy Hollstein. “The Common Core curriculum will help our children become better math thinkers when the process is complete, but right now we are not testing what we are teaching,” Hollstein said. PARCC tests are being developed to align to the Common Core curriculum.
Charles County Public Schools implemented the Common Core curriculum this past school year. Superintendent Kimberly Hill said, “Common Core is raising the bar for children, teachers and administrators. What we have learned over the past year is while we are teaching to a higher bar, there is a misalignment of what we are teaching and what we are testing,” Hill said.
Additionally, CCPS Director of Assessment Cliff Eichel said the state stopped administering the modified MSA to special education students this year, which also caused a drop in some students' scores. “The modified test allowed students to demonstrate their abilities in a test that was not easier, but better suited to meet their needs,” he said.
The MSA scores released today are reported under Maryland's flexibility waiver regarding the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Under Maryland's “School Progress” plan, each school is measured against its own targets, and must work to increase academic achievement across all subgroups. The annual measurable objective (AMO) is the performance target that assesses the progress of student subgroups, schools, school systems and the state annually, according to MSDE.
The MSA will be administered for the last time in the coming school year. Some students will take MSA in 2014 and others will field test the PARCC assessment. According to MSDE, the state is in the process of requesting a waiver to allow children to take one test or the other, but not both. The PARCC tests are being designed to measure the full range of the Common Core State Standards and student abilities. The new assessments, which will be field tested in every school in the state this school year, will test writing skills at each grade level, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and a mix of short answer, longer open response and multiple choice questions.
Hollstein said schools are already working on school improvement plans that are being developed by using achievement data.
The school system is also targeting its professional development for teachers and principals, using the successful practices of high achieving schools and linking them with lower performing schools. Hollstein said in the coming year, staff training would be tailored to match the needs of individual teachers. “We are looking at connecting people and skills. This is an exciting new school improvement plan process, where we are able to match schools and people with certain skills and provide help where needed. Instead of schools working in isolation, we are working as one,” she added.
Hill said the school system is not waiting for testing changes to move forward. She said CCPS would continue to build on educational improvements implemented over the past decade while moving forward with the higher expectations of Common Core. CCPS has been a leader in early childhood development, assessing the preparation of kindergartners and adding three-year-old programs to its six Title I schools. Additionally, CCPS is an early adopter of the Common Core State Standards and curriculum, and has greatly increased the percentage of highly qualified classroom teachers to 96.1 percent.
“This year's results will be useful to schools in their planning as we begin this period of transition, building on instruction through continued implementation of the Common Core and the testing change from MSA to PARCC. I am confident that, by working together as a school system, we can meet the challenges ahead,” Hill said.
Maryland's State Curriculum is being updated through the State's involvement in the Common Core State Standards program. Maryland joined 44 other states and the District of Columbia in developing rigorous new standards in reading/English language arts and mathematics designed to better prepare students for careers and college. Charles County Public Schools began implementing the Common Core standards in the 2012-13 school year.
The MSA exams are given to third- through eighth-grade students in reading and mathematics. MSA scores are reported for a total of 12 tests, six reading and six math. The annual measurable objective (AMO) is the yearly benchmark established by the state for school systems to meet their goals by 2017.
The state plans to release MSA scores in science for grades 5 and 8, High School Assessment (HSA) scores, graduation rates, attendance figures and School Progress Index (SPI) in the next several months.
Charles County Public Schools scores by elementary and middle school can be found on the MSDE report card website, www.mdreportcard.org or from the Charles County Public Schools website at http://www2.ccboe.com/msa/msa.cfm.
About Charles County Public SchoolsM
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,700 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 caring community schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.