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In the second year of Maryland's Star ratings of public schools, scores shifted toward the middle, with the highest and lowest ratings awarded to fewer schools.

Maryland released its star ratings for schools Tuesday. Schools were judged on a variety of criteria that included not just test scores but data on academic progress, whether students had a well rounded curriculum, and a survey of students and educators.

Most Baltimore-area districts matched the statewide trend, but two local districts stood out

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Broadly, schools moved toward the middle of Maryland’s one to five star rating system. A larger percentage of schools earned a three star rating, and there are fewer schools rated one star or five star.

In the Baltimore metro region, the results for both Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County were noteworthy.

In Baltimore County, 34 schools dropped to three stars from four. The reverse was true in Anne Arundel. The number of schools with four star ratings doubled to 48, and its schools with five stars also increased.

Anne Arundel school leaders said county schools didn’t necessarily change — just the means for tracking the elementary health lessons in order to earn more points on the state’s rating scale.

We’ll learn a lot from the new survey results

Added to the rating system this year is a survey of students and educators. The new, reliable survey of students and educators is providing a wealth of information about student perceptions of the environment inside their schools, bullying, how safe they feel in school and more.

Some of the data is not encouraging. Students don’t like their schools as much as educators do, and school leaders said the survey scores were lower than they expected.

The treasure trove of information is likely to make schools address specific student concerns about safety and relationships with fellow students.

There’s even more data on the way

Coming later this year will be a tool that will allow users to compare schools with similar demographics to each other.

Educators in schools in low income areas have always argued that their efforts may go unrecognized because their students have more challenges than students from wealthier areas. This is one of the first chances school systems will have to provide more realistic comparisons.

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