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Harford test scores show mixed results, beat state averages

Harford County elementary school students scored mostly lower in statewide assessment test results released Tuesday for the 2012-13 school year, while local middle schoolers gained in some areas, but fell back in others.

Overall, the Harford results on the Maryland State Assessments, or MSA, beat state averages across the board in reading and math and any declines among Harford students from the previous year were generally lower than those experienced across the state.

Composite scores in Harford for students scoring at either an advanced or proficient level exceeded 90 percent in fourth grade reading and math and fifth grade reading and fell below 80 percent only in seventh and eighth grade math. All other Harford composite scores were in the 80 to 90 percent range.

“Despite testing during a transition period, I am extremely proud of our students for holding steady and continuing to outpace the state on the Maryland State Assessments,” Harford Interim Superintendent Barbara Canavan said in a statement late Tuesday afternoon. “Our dedicated staff, parents and community partners should be highly commended for their perseverance as they continue to focus on the individual needs of every child. As we receive additional data from the state, our teachers, administrators and central office staff will continue to analyze the results in order to increase student achievement.”

The declining scores statewide were blamed on a variety of factors, among them a disparity between new national curriculum reading and math standards being introduced and some of the material in the tests, State School Superintendent Lillian Lowery told The Baltimore Sun.

The new standards, called common core, have to be in place for the 2013-14 school year and Lowry told The Sun some systems began using the standards this past school year, while the state has yet to complete development of new assessment tests that align with the common core. The result, she said, is that teachers may not have taught material needed to do well on the MSAs as they had in the past.

The state also added in assessment tests for some special education students for the first time in the last school year, which may have depressed overall scores, Lowery told The Sun.

According to the Maryland Department of Education's Maryland Report Card website, Harford's third graders scoring at either a proficient or advanced level on the MSA rose by a fraction of a percentage point in reading and dropped by about 2 percentage points in math; fourth grade scores were off 2 percentage points in reading and a percentage point in math; fifth grade scores were down by 1 percentage point in reading and 1.4 in math.

Sixth grade reading scores in Harford rose 1.1 percentage points over 2012, while sixth grade math scores declined 2 percentage points; seventh grade reading scores rose by almost 4 percentage points, while seventh grade math scores were down almost 6 percentage points; eighth grade reading scores were down a fraction of a percentage points and eighth grade math scores rose by almost 2 percentage points.

Around 50 more Harford third-graders were tested in 2013 than the previous year, while about 100 fewer fourth-graders were tested. About 200 more fifth-graders were tested last school year than in 2012.

The number of Harford sixth-graders taking the MSA declined by about 275 students last year from 2012, while about 100 more seventh-graders took the tests and about 100 fewer eighth-graders were tested.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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