Maryland News

Of 1,785 schools tested, just two met state standards

By Mary Pemberton
   BALTIMORE - Only two schools met state standards last year in a program to determine how well students can apply classroom lessons to real-life problems, according to state officials.
   "We have a long way to go," state School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said Wednesday when she presented the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program results.
   The names of the two schools were not available from state education officials.
   Tests were given to third-, fifth- and eighth-grade students in 1,785 schools last year to determine how well students are doing in reading, math, science and social studies. For a school to meet the state standard, at least 70 percent of the students must perform as a satisfactory level.
   Steve Ferrara, director of the testing program, said results were divided into four categories: schools meeting the standard, approaching the standard, not meeting the standard and far from meeting the standard.
   The largest number of schools fell in the 'not meeting standard' category, where no more than 49 percent of students met state requirements, he said.
   Math and science scores showed some improvement in 1993, but reading scores took a turn for the worse.

   Twenty percent of elementary schools were "very far" from meeting the standard, with fewer than 10 percent of third-graders performing at a satisfactory level, Ms. Grasmick said.
   The 1993 results will be used as a baseline to determine which schools make progress and which fall back, making them candidates for takeover by the state beginning in 1995, Ms. Grasmick said.
   In the eighth grade, of 230 schools tested, none met the state standard for reading and social studies. Only 2 percent met the math standard. From 60 percent to 78 percent were not meeting the standard in reading, math, science and social studies.
   In the fifth grade, 1 percent of 773 schools met the standard in reading, 2 percent in social studies, 4 percent in science, 9 percent in math and 12 percent in social studies.
   From 57 percent to 78 percent failed to meet the state standard in reading, math, science and social studies.
   In the third grade, of 782 schools, only 2 percent met the standard in social studies, and 3 percent in science and math. From 65 percent to 70 percent of schools did not meet the standard in math, science and social studies.

   Math scores for eighth-graders and reading scores for third-graders were thrown out because the reading scores were extremely low and the math scores were high, raising suspicion something was askew with the test, the superintendent said.
   Repeatedly, Ms. Grasmick said the results were not bad news but an indication of what needs to be done to prepare students to compete.
   "Change is extremely difficult," she said.
   The state wants schools to meet the state standard by 1996.
   Students were tested in 1992 and 1991. However, ms Grasmick refused to compare last year's results with earlier tests, saying it would be "inappropriate" because the 1993 results are being used as a baseline.
   The students who did well on the test were the same students who did well before, said Lorraine Costella, assistant superintendent for instruction.
   "For the most part, these students have been successfully before and the schools consistently do well," she said.
   The key to improving the state's schools is to retrain teachers to do a better job, Ms. Grasmick said.