Baltimore County Public Schools saw gains in student performance on state elementary reading and maths scores this year, but also saw a slight decline in middle school reading scores, according to the 2012 Maryland State Assessment scores released Tuesday, July 10.
MSA exams in reading and math are given to students in the third through eighth grades, and the results are ranked in the categories of basic, proficient and advanced — the latter two of which constitute a passing score.
The percentage of BCPS elementary students scoring proficient or advanced in reading saw an increase from 90.3 percent in 2011 to 90.7 percent in 2012, county officials said.
That compares with 88.2 percent statewide.
In math, the percentage of county students in grades three through five scoring proficient or advanced rose 2 percentage points from last year — from 88.8 percent in 2011 to 90.8 percent in 2012.
That compares with 87.7 percent of students across Maryland reaching proficiency.
In the middle school grades, however, the county saw more of a mixed bag.
Middle school students made gains in math, improving from 72.5 percent proficient or advanced in 2011 to 74.0 percent in 2012.
But that increase still places the county behind the statewide score, which showed students in grades six, seven and eight across the state achieving 76.2 percent proficiency.
And in reading, the percentage of county middle school students who passed fell slightly — from 82.9 percent proficient or advanced last year to 81.7 percent this year.
County school officials said in a statement that the decline was "consistent with middle school reading performance in all of Maryland."
In fact, some other jurisdictions also saw declines. For instance, last year 92.7 percent of middle school students in Howard County passed the reading test. This year, that number dropped to 90.9 percent.
And statewide, the number of middle school students to pass the reading test in 2012 fell from 83.5 percent to 82.1 percent.
Dance: 'Strong,' but opportunity to improve
Officials said Baltimore County is making strides overall — they touted that the county outperformed Montgomery County in the percentage of elementary students scoring proficient or advanced in mathematics by 1.2 percentage points.
But they also noted that the county is still behind Anne Arundel, Howard and Montgomery counties in elementary school reading and middle school mathematics and reading.
"Our overall student performance continues to be strong," said Superintendent S. Dallas Dance in a statement, "and when we examine subgroup performance we see healthy growth in the percentage of students scoring at proficient and advanced levels."
Yet Dance, who took over the superintendent's post just this month from retiring former superintendent Joe Hairston, said the scores show an opportunity to improve.
"We have made it a priority to focus on middle school academic performance in the coming year, and the MSA results underscore the importance of this task," he said.
For a school-by-school and grade-by-grade breakdown of the MSA scores, go to mdreportcard.org.
Sara Toth of the Howard County Times contributed to this story.