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On PARCC scores, Carroll schools improve, rank higher than counterparts

Carroll schools saw improvement over last year, coming away with higher testing scores than many of their counterparts, data from the State Department of Education show.

Howard County and Carroll County public school students scored better this year in nearly every grade and subject on Maryland's annual standardized tests — widening the gap between other Baltimore-area school systems on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

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The PARCC was given last spring in grades 3 through 8, and high school students were tested in algebra and English. Students' scores fall into one of five categories: exceeded expectations, met expectations, approached expectations, partially met expectations and did not meet expectations.

Across school systems, math scores climbed slightly in the second year of the test, but language arts scores were essentially flat, previously released statewide results show. On Tuesday, Maryland education officials released results for school districts and individual schools.

For example, about 63 percent of 10th-graders in Carroll passed (met or exceeded expectations) the English portion of the test, compared with the 49.6 percent that passed last year. In Algebra I, about half of Carroll students — 52.4 percent — passed this year, improving on the 47.9 percent who passed last year.

For third through eighth grade, the percentage of students passing in English ranged from 43.4 percent (sixth grade) to 54.9 percent (fourth grade), essentially flat or a few percentage points up from a year ago. In math, the range went from 44.3 percent passing (seventh grade) to 66.4 percent (third grade), with the percentage increase going from negligible to double-digits.

Gregory Bricca, director of research and accountability with Carroll County Public Schools, noted the modest increase in nearly every area.

"We have to be satisfied with that," he said.

Even still, 7.4 percent of Carroll's 11th-graders fell into the bottom category on the English test, with that number growing to nearly 10 percent for 10th-graders. Bricca acknowledged those statistics being a a concern.

They hoped they'd see a more substantial increase, he said. But schools didn't see the previous year's results until the middle of last year, so teachers and administration were not afforded a lot of time to make sense of the data.

"They didn't have a substantial amount of time to change instruction," Bricca said.

So, he said, given the short turnaround time, Carroll schools really should be happy — particularly with how they compared to other counties across the state.

"We fare relatively well," Bricca said. "We need to be pleased with where we are relative to others around us."

The latest results show Baltimore County and Baltimore City with scores lower than the rest of the area. Baltimore City schools, for instance, had 20 percent or fewer students passing in nearly every grade. Baltimore County scores went up significantly in math. In third grade, for instance, the pass rate for math went from 32 percent to 46 percent. However, scores in English went down, sometimes significantly. Overall, about a third of students in the county are able to pass the tests.

In Anne Arundel County, math and English scores dipped in some grades and rose slightly in others, with about 40 percent of students in most grades passing both subjects. In general, Harford County saw declines in English and increases in math scores. Just over half the students in the county are passing the English test, and between 40 percent and 50 percent are passing math.

Howard students had pass rates higher than 50 percent.

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Pass rates have dropped significantly since the state switched two years ago to the PARCC, a much more difficult test than the old Maryland State Assessments.

State education officials say they have raised the bar for what is being taught in schools with the goal that students who graduate will be better prepared for college or a job that pays a wage that can support a family. Currently, large numbers of high school graduates must take remedial classes in community college before they can take courses for credit.

What comes next, Bricca said, is taking a deeper look at all of the data to fully understand what it means. He said it's important to take a look at the scoring of different student populations — from race and ethnicity to special education and free and reduced lunch.

Only 34.5 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch passed English 10, and about 31 percent in this group passed English 11. About 31 percent also passed Algebra I, according to the data.

Taking a more in-depth look at the numbers can help school officials and teachers see where they need to bolster and target improvement, he said.

"We need to begin to close the gap in performance," Bricca said.

The data will be presented to the Board of Education, and will also be passed along to teachers and administrators, he said. They can then begin to set goals and move forward to continue to raise scores.

"That really becomes our work now," Bricca said.

PARCC scores:

How Carroll high school students fared as compared to all Maryland high school students on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Carroll

Algebra I

Passed: 52.4 percent

English 10

Passed: 63 percent

English 11

Passed: 56.1 percent

State

Algebra I

Passed: 35.6 percent

English 10

Passed: 44 percent

English 11

Passed: 37.1 percent

Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Bowie contributed to this article.

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-7862

twitter.com/EmilyChappell13

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