xml:space="preserve">

Given that the objective evaluations of Carroll County Public Schools in recent years — from standardized test scores, to graduation statistics to the first Maryland School Report Card — have been overwhelmingly positive and compared favorably to every other Maryland school system, Tuesday’s somewhat downgraded second report card might’ve surprised some. It also might turn out to be a positive as it gives the school system good reason to dive into the data, figure out what happened over the course of the year that caused 12 Carroll schools to see their ratings drop and set about improving so that next year doesn’t make this a trend.

The Maryland Report Card uses one-to-five stars to grade each school in the state and is part of an accountability system required by the federal government under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The system was created to evaluate schools holistically. The ratings are based on a variety of criteria, from student achievement on tests to attendance to curriculum. New this year, science test scores and survey results from faculty and students in grades 5 through 11 were included.

Advertisement

A year ago, no school system fared better than Carroll County as every traditional elementary, middle and high school received four or five stars. While CCPS still fared well by comparison to other counties in this year’s rankings, the system didn’t do nearly as well compared to the standard set a year ago.

Out of Carroll’s 38 public schools, 12 of them — 31.5% — were downgraded by one star this year. (Four improved by one star and 22 remained at the same level as a year ago).

This year, four of eight CCPS middle schools lost a star, with two downgraded to three stars. To be fair, roughly one-third of Maryland schools received three-star ratings. Still, that’s two schools that weren’t in that category in 2018. Additionally, 10 of Carroll’s five-star schools from 2018 dropped to four stars. (Kudos to Eldersburg and Winfield elementary schools, which each improved from four stars to five stars, Flexible Student Support, which went from three stars to four, and Gateway, which rose from one star to two.)

The fact that the rating system is so simple and familiar — people are certainly used to seeing restaurants or movies or Uber drivers evaluated by how many stars they receive — is both good and bad. It makes it easy for parents and others to make comparisons, but simply taking a quick look at a grade gives no understanding of how or why those doing the evaluating arrived at the rating. Eventually, the data used will be available online for the public to get a better picture of each school.

Superintendent Steve Lockard said that, “although we are very proud of our current performance, this new perceptual survey data will provide additional insights to assist us in providing a more contemporary and responsive learning environment.” He later told us that some of the new information, such as the student and employee survey, presents a good opportunity to look at areas that are important to CCPS, and that students and staff are “more than a snapshot in time of a test score.”

The surveys might be a good place to start. Given that Carroll ranked first in math and second in English Language Arts among school systems in Maryland on the most recent Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, it stands to reason that the science test scores and/or the student and faculty surveys played a role in bringing down the county’s school ratings.

A year ago, when CCPS fared so well on the first Maryland Report Card, Lockard rightly said, “these results don’t happen by accident.” That’s still the case. So work should already have begun inside CCPS to evaluate exactly what happened to make nearly one in three Carroll schools receive a lower rating this year than last and figuring out how to reverse that next year.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement