Harford County elementary school students beat the state average in all six levels of Maryland Scholastic Assessment testing in the 2012 school year.
More local schools averaged 95 percent or above advanced or proficient in third, fourth and fifth grade reading and math than averaged below 80 percent in those categories, and many schools posted 90-plus averages in all six categories.
The leader in the latter group was Youth's Benefit Elementary in Fallston, the only local elementary school among the 33 where students at all three grade levels posted average scores of 95 above in both math and reading tests.
While she is "very proud" of Youth's Benefit's MSA performance last year, Angela Morton, the school's former principal, said Monday, "all of our schools are seeing growth, and that is the real success story."
Morton, who was promoted to executive director of elementary education at the end of the last school year, pointed out that while the scores of individual schools often fluctuate from one year to the next, most schools in Harford showed an upward path in 2011-12, with many more individual students moving from the proficient to advanced.
She also pointed out that going forward, a collaborative effort among teachers, administrators and students will be to move individual scores into the advanced category.
The elementary MSA math and reading tests are scored on a scale from 240 to 650, according to the Maryland Department of Education's Maryland Report Card website. While the benchmarks vary from test and grade by a few points, the third grade reading test, for example, has a scale of 388 or above for a student to be considered proficient and of 456 or above to be considered advanced in that subject.
Morton said there is more to teaching and preparing students than just scoring well on the MSA, which she pointed out is akin to an "end product" at the conclusion of an academic year, during which "we track performance with all kinds of assessments," as well as through an individual student's work portfolio.
Morton said the goal for teachers and students will be to continue to grow in the classroom, which she said should be reflected in future MSA results, as well as other student assessments.
"We are seeing results from all that hard work," she said.
The following is a grade-by-grade summary of Harford scores in reading and math with comparative scores in the Baltimore Region and neighboring Cecil County, as well as Montgomery County, the state's largest school district:
GRADE 3 READING: State average 85.0, Harford average 88.6: Third graders in Harford read at a proficiency level above the state average; however, when compared to other Baltimore area counties, the Harford average exceeds only Baltimore County at 88.3 and Baltimore City at 65.5. Howard County is first in the region at 91.7, followed by Anne Arundel County at 90.4. Carroll County is next at 89.9, and Cecil County third graders had a proficiency level of 88.9. Montgomery County's rate is 88.8.
According to the state, 2,785 Harford third-graders took the 2012 MSA in reading, with 2,468 scoring at the advanced or proficient level. Of 33 schools, 16 posted scores of 90 or better in third grade reading, while seven posted scores in the 70-80 range and one was below 70.
Seven schools posted scores above 90 percent - Churchville, Fountain Green, Hickory, Prospect Mill, Ring Factory and Youth's Benefit – with that group including first-year Red Pump Elementary School in the 95-plus group as well.
Nine other schools had scores between 90 and 95 percent: Bel Air, Dublin, Emmorton, Forest Lakes, Homestead/Wakefield, Jarrettsville, Meadowvale, Norrisville and William S. James. Dublin's score of 90.2 was up sharply from 78.4 in 2011.
Magnolia Elementary posted the only sub-70 score at 62.3, a decline from 69.1 in 2011. Six schools: Bakerfield, Darlington, Deerfield, Edgewood, Havre de Grace, Riverside and William Paca/ Old Post Road were in the 70 to 80 range. Several in this group, however, showed improving scores, led by Deerfield which increased from 62.4 in 2011 to 75.7 in 2012. Other improving schools included Edgewood, George B. Lisby at Hillsdale, Riverside and William Paca/Old Post Road.
Among schools that showed declining scores, but still stayed near the county average, were Joppatowne, from 93.5 to 88.8; North Bend, from 97 to 86.7; and Forest Hill, from 96.5 to 89.3.
THIRD GRADE MATH: State average 87.8, Harford average 89.9: Third graders in Harford also scored above the state average in math proficiency but, again, they generally were behind other school systems in the Baltimore area, exceeding the averages of only Baltimore City at 73.6 and Cecil County at 87.3. Carroll County let the region at 94.2, followed by Howard County at 93.8, Anne Arundel County at 93.1 and Baltimore County at 91.4. The Montgomery County score was 90.1.
According to the state, 2,789 third-graders took the math MSA in 2012 and 2,507 scored advanced or proficient. Of the 33 schools, 18 scored 90 percent or better, with six scoring below 80 and none below 70.