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Harford students again shine on PARCC tests

Harford County students' standardized test scores from the past school year beat their peers across the state in every category but one, according to PARCC test data released this week.

"HCPS continues to be proud of the hard work of our students, teachers, and administrators with regard to the PARCC assessment program," Susan Brown, executive director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Harford County Public Schools, said Thursday in a statement emailed through school system spokesperson Jillian Lader.

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"We are continuing to analyze the data with our central office and school-based leadership to evaluate how each grade level performed," Brown continued.

The data, which was released by the Maryland State Department of Education Tuesday, covers the results of the PARCC tests administered during the 2016-2017 school year. PARCC stands for Partnership for Asssessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

The test scores are available on the Maryland Report Card website, reportcard.msde.maryland.gov. The school system put out a news release with the scores Wednesday.

Overall, the Harford results were a mixed bag, with scores declining for some grades and subjects and increasing for others.

Math scores

Increases could be seen in the Harford County scores on third-, sixth- and seventh-grade reading tests and fourth- and fifth-grade math tests.

The scores declined, when compared to the 2015-16 PARCC results, for fourth-, fifth- and eighth-grade reading, 10th-grade English/language arts, third-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade math, the Algebra I test for middle- and high-schoolers, plus Algebra II, geometry and 11th-grade English, according to the data.

Harford County students still beat the state average by wide margins on every category, except eighth-grade math.

The data provided by the school system indicates 11.2 percent of Harford's eighth-graders passed their math PARCC, compared to a 16.8 percent average for the state.

The test scores for seventh- and eighth-grade math come from those students' performance on the Algebra I and geometry exams, according to the HCPS news release.

High school students also take Algebra I and geometry.

The PARCC exams are scored on a scale from 1 to 5, and scores of 4 and 5 are considered passing. A score of 4 means the test-taker meets state standards for proficiency in math or reading; a 5 means the test-taker has exceeded standards.

Math scores for Harford eighth-graders declined from the previous year when 16.9 percent met standards and less than 5 percent exceeded in 2015-16.

Sixth-grade math scores declined slightly, from 43.2 percent to 42.5 percent passing. Seventh-graders experienced a slight decline, too, from 28.7 percent passing to 27 percent.

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Statewide, 32.2 percent of sixth-graders passed math and 25.3 percent of seventh graders passed.

Harford County third-graders were the only students at the elementary school level who saw a decline in their math scores, dropping from 57.8 percent to 50.5 percent. Meanwhile, 43 percent of their counterparts statewide passed.

Fourth-grade math scores increased, from 39.3 percent to 42.8 percent. Math scores increased from 43.1 percent to 48.2 percent for fifth-graders.

The data show 37.4 percent of fourth-graders and 35.5 percent of fifth-graders passed the math test statewide.

The overall passing score for Algebra I stood at 49.8 percent for 2017. It decreased from 49.2 percent meeting standards and less than 5 percent exceeding last year.

The statewide passing average for Algebra I this year was 36.5 percent.

Middle- and high-schoolers' geometry scores decreased from 61.1 percent to 60.2 percent. They were still well above the state average this year, which was 47.9 percent.

Reading scores

Third-grade reading scores increased from 51.7 percent last year to 53.3 percent this year. Statewide, 39.8 percent of third-graders passed their exam.

Fourth- and fifth-grade reading scores declined, though. The fourth-grade passing score went from 52.1 percent to 50.9 percent, and fifth-graders went from 49.6 percent to 48.4 percent.

The statewide average was 41.9 percent for fourth-graders and 41.4 percent for fifth-graders.

Sixth- and seventh-grade reading scores increased — sixth-graders went from 52.7 percent to 53 percent, and seventh-graders went from 53.3 percent to 54.4 percent.

Sixth-graders statewide passed at a 38.4 percent rate, and seventh-graders passed at 43.1 percent.

Harford eighth-graders' reading scores declined, from 47.9 percent to 44.1 percent. The statewide average was 38.9 percent.

Less than 10 percent of test-takers passed the ninth-grade English/language arts exam this year, according to data posted on the Report Card site — data on that exam was only available for this year.

Tenth-graders in Harford saw their passing scores decline on their English/language arts test, from 60.7 percent to 56.8 percent.

A mix of HCPS students take PARCC online and with pencil and paper, as the school system works to meet a state mandate that all students take PARCC online.

"HCPS continues to transition to assessing students by computer rather than paper/pencil," Brown stated. "The 2016-17 school year was the first year all fifth-, eighth-, and tenth-grade students tested online."

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