Board to set standards for 'report card' on Md. schools, students


Schools will be judged by one more category this November when the second annual state "report card" is issued: whether their 11th-graders have mastered the basic minimum skills tested by the Maryland Functional Tests.

The state Board of Education agreed yesterday to hold a public hearing next month on what performance levels to set for 11th-graders on the tests, which measure skills that the students are expected to know in ninth grade and are a prerequisite for graduation. The report card already includes statistics on whether ninth-graders are passing the tests, as well as other data on dropout, attendance and grade promotion rates.

The standards proposed by state Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling say that by 1995 -- a target year for meeting the tough state standards set forth in the report card -- 11th-graders should be nearly perfect in functional skills.

Under the superintendent's proposal, a school would win an excellent rating if 99 percent of its 11th-graders passed all four categories of the tests. A 98 percent pass rate in the four tests would result in the only other grade possible: satisfactory.

Dr. Shilling reasons that by 11th grade, everybody except for special education students not seeking a diploma and students who have recently transferred from out-of-state should be able to pass the functional tests. The functional tests establish the bare minimum for students' learning rather than measuring the higher-level skills addressed in the new state test begun this month.

State officials estimate that 11th-graders across the state already meet the new standards in the functional reading test -- with 99 percent of them passing. But in mathematics, writing and citizenship, 11th-graders are passing at a rate of 92 percent, 93 percent and 92 percent, respectively. Those figures are extrapolations of a sampling of test data.

The standards proposed by Dr. Shilling -- who announced yesterday that he would leave the state post July 1 -- are higher than those offered by a nine-member state committee that makes recommendations on standards to the superintendent. The group recommended setting a 99 percent pass rate for reading but 94 percent for math, 98 percent for writing and 94 percent for citizenship for a rating of excellent.

The state board also agreed yesterday to defer for a year what would have been a second addition to the report card: standards establishing whether schools are preparing youngsters for college, careers or both.

To measure progress toward these goals, the state would collect data on the percentage of seniors who met the University of Maryland's admission requirements or who completed state-approved courses preparing them for jobs.

That information would be included in the report card, but no excellent or satisfactory standard would be set because the University of Maryland is revising admission requirements and other factors are changing.

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