The Maryland State Department of Education released its star ratings for the state’s public schools on Thursday afternoon, with a little over a third of Harford County’s public schools earning a five-star rating and seven schools improving their ranking.
The state rating system, introduced in 2018, rates each school from one to five stars based on a variety of criteria including student achievement on tests, attendance, and whether students are offered a well-rounded curriculum.
The U.S. Department of Education granted states flexibility in reporting the accountability measures for the 2021-22 school year, with one-time adjustments to how it rated schools on factors including growth and chronic absenteeism due to the impact of the pandemic, according to the Maryland State Board of Education.
The latest star rankings for the school system give Harford 18 five-star schools out of its 54 learning institutions, a boost compared to 17 five-star schools in 2019.
“Staff in our schools work diligently every day to educate the whole child,” HCPS Superintendent Sean Bulson said in a statement on Friday. “Whether a school has five stars or two stars, our focus remains on individual students and how we can provide the best opportunities and learning experiences, meeting that student where they are in their education.”
While the number of Harford’s public schools earning four or five stars was 37 in 2019, the number declined to 34 in the latest rankings.
Out of the 18 five-star schools in the county, 17 were elementary schools. Darlington, Emmorton, Fountain Green, Hickory and Ring Factory elementary schools improved from four to five.
Bakerfield, Church Creek and Edgewood elementary schools dropped from four stars to three. They were among nine schools that saw their rankings drop. Previous five-star high schools C. Milton Wright, Fallston, Harford Tech, North Harford and Patterson Mill all slipped to four stars. Fallston Middle School is the only five-star middle school in the county.
“Over 64% percent of schools in Harford County Public Schools have four- and five-star ratings from the Maryland State Department of Education Maryland Public Schools Report Card,” Jillian Lader, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools, said in a statement. “While the specific indicators to determine star ratings vary between the elementary, middle and high school levels, a school’s score generally includes: academic achievement; academic growth; school quality – which includes attendance, climate and access to a well-rounded curriculum; college and career readiness; and the progress of English Language Learners. At the high school level, it also includes on-track measures for students in grade 9 and graduation rates.”
Halls Cross Roads Elementary School dropped from three stars to two joining Magnolia Elementary School and Aberdeen, Edgewood and Magnolia Middle schools as the only two-star schools in the county. All four schools scored less than 7 points out of a possible 20 points for academic achievement and less than 20 points out of a possible 35 points for school quality and student success.
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Overall, 16 of Harford’s schools received four stars including six high schools and four middle schools. Thirteen schools including Swan Creek, the K-12 blended learning school, earned three stars in 2022, including four high schools and one middle school.
At the lowest end, six schools earned two stars; The Center for Educational Opportunity, an alternative school in Aberdeen for students in grades 7 through 12, is still the county’s only one-star school. The John Archer School for students with physical and intellectual disabilities, now renamed Harford Academy, is unranked.
“We look forward to analyzing the data in detail and working directly with all schools in their areas of need,” Lader said in the statement. “This detailed analysis will help us support our schools [that] were rated one star below their score since the last release of this information in 2019. In addition, we also collaborate with all schools to define areas of growth and need so that we can ensure all HCPS students are successful.”
Compared to 2018-2019, the last year school ratings were calculated, more than half (63%) of schools had the same rating in 2022. More than a quarter of schools earned a lower star rating than in 2019, while 11% of schools received a higher star rating, according to a Maryland State Department of Education news release.
“We value academic achievement, and we value the learning environments of our students,” said Maryland State Board of Education President Clarence C. Crawford. “We want to ensure that each student feels supported and feels they have the tools to be successful in the classroom and beyond. The pandemic presented many challenges, many priorities shifted, and our educators at our [local education agencies] stepped up. They created a safe and welcoming space in the classroom and the results of the 2022 Maryland School Report Card reflect that.”
Maryland State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury said in the news release that the report card is a starting point for evidence-based strategies to drive student outcomes.
“That work is more urgent now than ever,” Choudhury said. “This broad collection of information will help our LEAs monitor and support students based on their individual needs, especially the needs of students in historically underserved communities. It will also help MSDE better understand the needs of our LEAs, so we can effectively deliver on the promise of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and provide every Maryland child with the excellent education they deserve.”