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County Schools Testing Better, But Still Below State Averages

Prince George's students are doing better at math and maintaining reading levels, according to data released yesterday.

Prince George's County school officials highlighted gains in math scores and maintained reading test results on Maryland School Assessment test scores yesterday. But despite the improvements, Prince George's County students in both elementary and middle school scored well below the statewide average for math proficiency. 

Of Prince George's County students in grades three, four and five, nearly 80 percent passed the test with proficient or advanced math skills. The statewide average for this grade band is almost 88 percent. 

But older students fared worse on the math test. Only about 63 percent of county students in grades six, seven and eight passed the test with proficient or advanced math skills. The statewide average for this grade band is much higher, at 76 percent proficient or advanced.

County students seem to be better readers than mathematicians. Exactly 82 percent of county students in grades three, four and five tested at a proficient or advanced reading level, shy of the statewide average of roughly 88 percent. Students in grades six, seven and eight were assessed at 73 percent proficient or advanced reading skills, shy of the statewide average of 82 percent. 

Performance by county students across all grade levels on the state assessment tests was generally improved over last year, according to county officials. 

"Math scores increased at every grade level except for a small dip in fourth grade. Reading scores improved for fourth through sixth grades, and fell slightly for third, seventh and eighth grades," according to a press release issued by the county school system. 

Only 21 of the county's more than 130 elementary schools scored more than 90 percent in reading tests, with Heather Hills, Tulip Grove and Whitehall elementary schools–all located in Bowie, by the way–bringing in the top scores.

Only one of the county's 29 middle schools, Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Beltsville, scored higher than the state average middle school grade band reading score of 82 percent. The Beltsville school scored just under 90 percent on the test. 

Doswell E. Brooks Elementary in Capitol Heights posted the highest gains in reading scores over last year for a county elementary school. Students were assessed at 91.7 percent proficient or advanced reading skills, up more than 16 percentage points from 2011.

Only 13 of the county's elementary schools scored more than 90 percent proficient or advanced in math, with Glenn Dale Elementary, and familiar names Heather Hills, and Tulip Grove elementary schools the highest performing in the county. 

Glenn Dale Elementary also posted the largest gains in the county for math scores, jumping more than 21 percentage points to 96 percent of its students assessed at proficient or advanced over last year.

Hyattsville Middle School posted the largest gains among county middle schools in its math scores, jumping 13 percentage points to 63 percent of its students assessed at proficient or advanced over last year. 

County school officials highlight several "positive trends" which they say bode well for the county's educational proficiency, including a five year upward trend in both reading and math scores. 

"Data shows that eighth graders have made significant gains in reading since 2008 with a jump of 12.8 percentage points," read a release announcing the county's test scores. "In math, sixth graders have increased 9.4 percentage points over the past five years, from 67 percent in 2008 to 76.4 in 2012."

School officials credit the gains to revisions to the curriculum designed to better prepare students to meet state education standards, intervention designed to address problems at the individual and institutional level, and teacher focus groups designed to craft improved instructional strategies.

"Overall, MSA passing rates have improved at all grade levels since 2004 with percentage point gains ranging from 17.2 to 33.7 in reading, and from 23 to 39.9 in math," read the release. "Data shows that fifth graders have made significant increases in reading since 2004, with a jump of 33.7 percentage points to 84.4 percent proficient in 2012. In math, sixth graders have shown gains of 39.9 points since 2004"

Maryland school systems were recently granted some felxibility in meeting the federal No Child Left Behind Act requirements to have all students scoring at proficient levels by 2014. Maryland schools are now gauged against individual "school progress" plans crafted for each school. Schools have to hit annual improvement targets based on the student population and other demographic categories. 

Of Prince George's 166 elementary and middle schools, only 63 percent–105 schools–met their 2012 targets. Statewide, 84 percent met their 2012 targets, which will continue to rise over the next six years.

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