Roughly Speaking

In Baltimore schools, disparities in and out of the classroom affect student performance

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Roughly Speaking: Newsroom Edition, episode 23:


Troubling standardized test results from Maryland’s annual spring PARCC exams cast a shadow over the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. This year’s scores highlighted the continued failure of schools to find a better way to teach math, though English results did improve slightly.

Overall, only a third of students in grades three through eight passed the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career math tests, the state’s worst performance since 2015. In Baltimore, scores tended to vary, but yet again, the outer suburbs generally posted higher scores.


Some education advocates say that the difference between county and city test scores shouldn’t surprise anyone: The Baltimore school system faces a roughly $3 billion maintenance backlog, which means students learn and teachers teach with leaky roofs, limited air conditioning and contaminated water fountains, among other issues. Additionally, about half of Baltimore youth have gone through what’s dubbed an “adverse child experience” — anything from witnessing a violent crime to extreme poverty or losing a parent, data show, which could also affect classroom performance.

On this episode, Baltimore Sun education reporters Liz Bowie and Talia Richman join Newsroom Edition host Pamela Wood to take a deep dive into the implications of the PARCC test results and review this year’s key education issues to follow.

Related links:

2019 Maryland PARCC scores: Search by school

These Baltimore-area schools performed best on Maryland’s 2019 PARCC standardized tests

Interactive quiz: Could you pass the PARCC standardized tests?

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