In Anne Arundel County, more elementary schools did not meet adequate yearly progress targets this year than last year.
Overall, 67 of Anne Arundel's 78 elementary schools made the yearly progress targets, down from 72 last year. Seven of the county's 19 middle schools made the mark, up from five last year.
Thirteen Anne Arundel schools missed the target for the first time: Magothy River Middle and Old Mill Middle School South, as well as Broadneck, George T. Cromwell, Glen Burnie Park, Hebron-Harman, High Point, Jacobsville, Maryland City, Oakwood, Rippling Woods, Seven Oaks and Van Bokkelen elementaries.
Anne Arundel showed improvement throughout the system in reading and math on the Maryland School Assessment tests. In reading, 92.3 percent of elementary school students passed, compared with 91.1 percent a year ago. In math, 92 percent of elementary school students passed, compared with 91.3 percent a year ago.
At the middle school level, 87.4 percent of students passed reading and 78.4 percent passed the math portion.
Among county schools that had previously missed AYP goals, Wiley H. Bates Middle School showed a turnaround. The school missed a dozen AYP marks last year but this year met all target areas. Bates is under a school improvement program but will be removed if it meets the goals next year.
"These results are the work of so many people, not just in the last year, but over many years," Bates Principal Diane Bragdon said. "Our focus on arts integration, increased parental involvement, emphasis on positive behavior supports, collaborative planning by a talented and dedicated staff, and the use of technology have all combined to lead us to the place where we are today."
Monarch Academy and six elementary schools that missed AYP targets last year met them this year.
Baltimore County schools made slight improvements in reading and math at most grade levels measured by the Maryland School Assessments, taking steps backward in sixth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.
In general, the county's elementary schools performed better relative to the rest of the state than did its middle schools, which ranked slightly below the state average in every category except eighth-grade reading.
Deputy Superintendent Renee Foose said the county was still sorting through which schools did and did not make adequate yearly progress under federal No Child Left Behind standards. Preliminary numbers showed 22 schools failing to meet the progress goals for the first time and 21 in school improvement, meaning that they failed to meet standards for consecutive years.
Foose noted the county's improved performance among special-education students, students who receive free and reduced-price lunches, and students who receive language help.
"We're most proud of the record numbers of students who receive services scoring above the proficient level in elementary school," she said.
Foose said she was not too troubled by countywide dips in sixth-grade reading and eighth-grade math. "From year to year, us seeing a decline in one particular cohort isn't as significant as it might appear," she said. "If we saw a pattern over a series of years, that might be more of a curricular issue."
The most alarming drops occurred at Woodlawn Middle School, where math scores fell 20.7 percentage points and reading scores fell 15.1 percentage points. Woodlawn spent eight years in the state's school improvement program, emerging, to much acclaim, in 2009. The school improved its scores again last year before this year's precipitous drop.
Foose said the Woodlawn numbers grabbed her attention, but it's too early to explain them. "At this point, we haven't drilled down to individual schools," she said. "There will definitely be a course of action under way to address those concerns."
Woodlawn Principal April Jones said she and her leadership team were examining the scores but were not yet prepared to discuss why they fell or plans to improve.
Powhatan Elementary, Winfield Elementary and Windsor Mill Middle School also suffered substantial drops.
Carroll County schools again scored well above the state average in most categories measured by the MSAs, though they declined slightly in seven of the 12 grade-level measures of math and reading.
An unprecedented 12 Carroll schools failed to make adequate yearly progress, and three middle schools are entering school improvement after failing to meet progress standards for a second straight year.
Assistant Superintendent Steve Johnson said such results are inevitable under a federal policy that demands steady improvement, even for schools that score well above the state average.
"A lot of school systems are plateauing, and progress is becoming more difficult," he said. "The standard will eventually become almost impossible to reach, and as a result, fantastic schools will be labeled as failing."
The county's AYP rolls swelled despite the fact that Carroll students scored better than 90 percent proficient in eight of the 12 grade-level measures of math and reading.
Carroll saw its largest countywide dips in sixth-grade reading and seventh-grade math. Johnson said middle school math is a troublesome area in general, a trend that holds across the state.
"Is it a curriculum issue? An intervention issue?" he said. "We need to get our arms around that."
The three Carroll schools facing school improvement are East Middle, West Middle and New Windsor Middle.
Harford County schools improved slightly in eight of the 12 grade-level categories measured by the MSAs and bested the state average in all 12 areas.
"As our schools reach the highest levels of proficiency — well into the 90s — significant increases become more difficult to achieve," said Superintendent Robert M. Tomback. "With that said, our administrators and teachers continue to work diligently to identify and address the needs of individual children, helping each to meet the high expectations established."
Nine Harford elementary schools failed to make AYP goals and two of them, Magnolia and William Paca/Old Post Road, will have to offer tutoring to Title I students after failing to meet standards for a second straight year.
Spokeswoman Teri Kranefeld noted that scores at William Paca/Old Post Road and Magnolia remained steady or improved in the vast majority of the 20 subgroups measured by the MSAs. "They're making significant progress in many subgroup areas," she said.
Seven of the county's nine middle schools failed to meet progress goals. Kranefeld said the county doesn't look for trends at schools failing to make adequate progress as much as it looks at potential improvements in subgroups at each school.
"We're doing a very close look at the data for each school to identify the areas where we need to improve," she said.
Harford showed its largest countywide drops in fifth-grade math and sixth-grade reading. Deerfield Elementary in Edgewood suffered some of the sharpest across-the-board drops of any school in the state.
Eighteen of the county's 41 middle and elementary schools scored 90 percent proficient or better in both reading and math.
Kranefeld called the system's overall performance "a huge accomplishment."
In Howard County, which annually posts results above the state average, 94 percent of elementary school students scored proficient or advanced in reading and 92 percent did so in math. At the middle-school level, 92.6 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in reading and 87.3 percent in math.
"We're very pleased with our overall scores. We're achieving at higher levels than we've ever achieved before," said Rebecca Amani-Dove, county director of student assessment and program evaluation.
"Overall, we continue to see gains. We've also seen improvement in students receiving special education services."
Forty-nine of Howard County's 58 elementary and middle schools met AYP targets this year. Seven schools have been identified for local attention — Cradlerock School, Dunloggin, Elkridge Landing and Harper's Choice Middle, as well as Fulton, Running Brook and Swansfield elementaries. Local attention means a school needs to focus efforts on the individual needs of students in the areas in which they did not meet the target.
School officials said Mayfield Woods Middle and Wilde Lake Middle are in their first year of a school improvement program. Oakland Mills Middle, which progressed from school improvement to corrective action last year, met AYP targets in 2011. It will be removed from the school improvement category if it meets the goals next year.
Jeffers Hill and Veterans elementaries and Murray Hill Middle also made adequate progress in 2011 and are no longer identified for local attention, Amani-Dove said.
Running Brook Elementary posted the 11th-largest gain among all schools in the state in reading and math, with a total gain of 22.04 percentage points, according to data analyzed by The Baltimore Sun.