While a majority of Howard County schools received high ratings in the second year of a state accountability system that grades all Maryland public schools, 14 dropped off from their previous year’s ratings.
The state rating system, introduced last year, gives one to five stars to schools based on a variety of criteria, from student achievement on tests to attendance to whether students are offered a well-rounded curriculum.
Homewood Center in Ellicott City received a one-star rating for the second year. Students attend Homewood if they “have difficulty functioning in traditional classroom settings,” according to the school’s website.
For the second year, no Howard schools received two stars.
In 2018, 74 Howard schools were evaluated, leaving Hanover Hills Elementary School, Cedar Lane School and the Applications and Research Laboratory out of the report. Thirty-one schools received five stars, 36 received four stars, six received three stars and one received one star.
For both years, Cedar Lane and the Applications and Research Lab were not included in the report as both are categorized as non-comprehensive schools because of specialty programs. In 2018, Hanover Hills Elementary was excluded because the school was in its first year.
Maryland’s accountability system, which was required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, is a more holistic look at schools that is less dependent on test scores than past rating systems. In a law passed in 2017, the Maryland General Assembly said achievement and test scores could count for no more than 62% of the overall rating.
The changes in this year’s star ratings may have been affected by the addition of the survey and the elementary and middle school science scores. At many schools, both students and educators seemed most concerned about their school’s safety and, in some cases, the physical condition of the facility. The state did not immediately release the questions in the surveys or provide more context for the survey scores.
Howard schools said in a news release the surveys were completed by all students and teachers between grades 5 and 11 and collected information on “relationships, safety, school environment and engagement.”
A schools spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
In addressing the dropped ratings, the school system said, “The decline for some schools mirror similar declines in school systems throughout Maryland, and reflect the addition of the new MISA [Maryland Integrated Science Assessment] and school survey indicators into the results.”
The eight Howard schools that dropped from five to four stars are Mount Hebron High, Ellicott Mills Middle, Hammond Middle, Fulton Elementary, Ilchester Elementary, Rockburn Elementary, Thunder Hill Elementary and Veterans Elementary.
Six schools dropped from four to three stars: Bollman Bridge Elementary, Bryant Woods Elementary, Lake Elkhorn Middle, Mayfield Woods Middle, Murray Hill Middle and Patuxent Valley Middle.
Around the state, Baltimore County showed the largest decline in stars and Anne Arundel County had the largest improvement over last year.
In Baltimore County, 34 schools dropped to three stars from four stars and six schools, all elementary, dropped to four stars from five stars. In Anne Arundel, the number of schools with four-star ratings doubled to 48, and its schools with five stars also increased.
The number of one-star schools in the city of Baltimore decreased by about half, in part because the district closed some of its lowest performing schools. But fewer schools earned four or five stars than last year; only one school — Baltimore Polytechnic Institute — received the coveted five-star designation this year.