Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

County scores well on High School Assessments

State vague about this year’s results, MCPS leaders complain

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Montgomery’s Class of 2009 — this year’s juniors — fared well on May’s state-mandated high school exit exams, according to data released Tuesday by the county school system.

At the state level, however, officials are still trying to interpret the data, much to the frustration of Montgomery school leaders.

This year’s junior class must pass four high school assessment tests in algebra, biology, English and government to graduate. The county school system was not able to split out the pass rates among subgroups. The system’s Department of Shared Accountability will analyze the data and publish more details by October, said schools spokesman Brian K. Edwards.

‘‘The preliminary results provide an important measure of the continued progress under way in MCPS through the work of principals, teachers and counselors to prepare students for the assessments,” wrote schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast in a Tuesday memo to the school board. ‘‘These efforts are designed to provide additional academic support and intervention as students in this class approach graduation two years from now.”

In the memo, Weast said there are ‘‘extensive efforts” in high schools, including the systemwide implementation of the High School Plus, an extended-day program that allows students to retake classes they fail.

Of the 9,592 students who took the algebra HSA, 8,303 — or 87.1 percent — passed. Of the 9,334 students who took the government test, 8,604 — 92.2 percent — passed. Of the 9,479 students who took the English test, 7,929 — or 83.6 percent — passed. And of the 7,704 students who took the biology HSA, 6,934 — or 90 percent — passed.

‘‘Interesting numbers,” said school board member Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park. ‘‘But I’m concerned about the kids that didn’t pass. We really need to make sure all our students pass. We can’t have high schools with less than 80 and 90 percent successful.”

Board member Patricia B. O’Neill (Dist. 3) of Bethesda called the preliminary results ‘‘a step in the right direction,” however, ‘‘anyone not passing a ... test is a concern.” She also expressed concern with the timeliness of the release of the assessment results. The school system had to wait 11 weeks to get the results, which delays the time schools have to offer remediation to students who did not pass, she said.

An Aug. 23 memo from Weast to the school board echoes that sentiment: Weast and others were told that the state was unable to distinguish the test results by grade level because it lacks an identification system for all students in Maryland.

‘‘Unfortunately, the state is unable to identify students within the Class of 2009 or anyone else and cannot separate these students from all other test takers,” Weast wrote. ‘‘Consequently, the data being released ... are open to gross misinterpretation and clearly mask the status of the 2009 graduating class. This is an incredible development for students statewide entering their final two years of high school.”

The state’s high school assessment results — released Tuesday — are projected numbers, not the actual scores.

For example, of the 55,000 students Maryland expects to graduate in two years, 51,000 have passed the algebra exam, according to the state. A total of 45,000 students in Maryland passed the English exam; 47,000 passed the government test; and 41,000 passed the biology test last school year, according to MSDE.

‘‘We know from these results that the vast majority of Maryland students are finding that they can pass these assessments and will be well on their way to graduation in 2009,” said state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick in a statement.

The state Department of Education is also working on a plan designed to help students graduate, the state school board announced.

MCPS 2007passing rates

Source: Montgomery County Public Schools

2007 High School Assessments

Beginning in 2009 — today’s juniors — students must do one of the following in order to graduate:

Pass four High School Assessment exams given at the end of 10th-grade English; national, state and local government; biology; and algebra I.

Earn a minimum score on each test and a minimum combined score on all four.

Earn a 3 or higher on the Advanced Placement exam or a 4 or higher on International Baccalaureate exams, which could be substituted for passage of the HSA in each subject.

For school-by-school results, go to www.gazette.net⁄links