12 Carroll schools fall shy of progress goals in MSA

Carroll County schools again scored well above the state average in most categories measured by the Maryland School Assessment, though the school system saw slightly decline in seven of the 12 grade-level measures of math and reading.

Figures for latest round of MSAs were released by the state on June 29.

The MSA was administered to 365,000 students throughout the state in grades three through eight. The test fulfills the federally mandated No Child Left Behind Act, used to determine if students of all sub-groups are making adequate yearly progress.

The law requires that 100 percent of students score proficient in reading and math by 2014.

Twelve Carroll schools failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) in this year's results, and among those, three middle schools are entering an "improvement needed" status based on the fact that they have failed to meet progress standards for a second straight year.

The three Carroll schools in that category are East Middle, West Middle and New Windsor Middle.

The 12 schools overall that did not make adequate progress include those three, plus Carrolltowne Elementary, Elmer Wolfe Elementary, Hampstead Elementary, Winfield Elementary, Mount Airy Middle, North Carroll Middle, New Windsor Middle, Shiloh Middle and Sykesville Middle.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Johnson said such results are almost inevitable under a federal policy that demands steady improvement, even for schools that score well above the state average.

"It's very difficult when you're already achieving high levels. It gets harder and harder to achieve the rate of increase that the federal government is seeking," he said.

"It's hard to get 100 percent of anything," Johnson said.

"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."

Carroll students scored better than 90 percent proficient in eight of the 12 grade-level measures of math and reading.

Yet the county 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 MSA breaks down data on progress by school and by several sub-categories, including white, Hispanic, black, special education, students with limited English proficiency, students received free and reduced-price meals and other categories. In some cases, a school's failure to meet yearly progress was for specific populations of students.

Johnson said the county would spend the summer analyzing the data and looking at ways to help the student populations that are needing attention.

"The good news," he said, "is that we'll be working with those students."

Statewide, Maryland's elementary school students are nearing 90 percent proficiency marks on state reading assessments, after noting a small gain from last year to 88 percent. The number of students scoring proficient on elementary school math tests remained flat at 86 percent.

In middle school, the percentage of students scoring at proficient levels in math and reading also rose slightly. Proficiency levels in middle school reading rose to 84 percent, and mathematics rose to 74 percent.

In her last release of the state's MSA results, state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, who officially retired this week, said the results of the state assessments demonstrated that "the state continues to do incredible work on behalf of its students."

To view the MSA data, go to http://www.mdreportcard.org, or follow the link from this story online at explorecarroll.com.

Jim Joyner of The Eagle contributed to this story.

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