Anne Arundel County schools gained ground this year in 10 categories in the state testing program but still failed in four of the 13 categories.
The greatest improvements came in the number of first-time test takers passing the reading, math, writing and citizenship tests, according to a report school officials released yesterday.
But even with the improvement, the percentage of students passing the citizenship and writing tests did not meet state standards. And Anne Arundel County's dropout rate got worse, falling short of the state standards.
The rate increased from 4 percent to 5 percent -- 2 percentage points above the satisfactory level.
But Thomas Rhoades, director of management information services, said it is unclear whether those figures are reliable because of the way statistics are kept.
School officials nevertheless are concerned about the dropout rate and the inability to provide special programs to every student at risk, he said.
Despite those low marks, Kenneth E. Nichols, assistant superintendent for instruction, said school officials were generally pleased with the scores and believe the county will meet all statewide test requirements by 1995.
County students have improved in each of the three years the test has been administered, he said.
Almost 95 percent of all 11th graders taking the tests last year passed them, and Anne Arundel school officials said few students failed to graduate last year because they could not meet the test requirements.
School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II said students may have done poorly on the citizenship in the past because they took the test before they studied the subject. He said the school system has revamped its curriculum to make sure that students are taught subjects before they are tested on it.
Mr. Rhoades said citizenship scores also may have been kept artificially low because a significant number of students who take the test have moved to the county from from other states and are not familiar with Maryland's government.
Vincent O. Leggett, president of the county Board of Education, said he was pleased with the overall performance on the test but concerned that some students continue to lag behind.
Minority male students generally scored lower on the tests than whites, but black students showed greater improvement than whites, Mr. Nichols said.
Anne Arundel officials have been among the most vocal critics of state-mandated testing.
Mr. Carter said he believed that a number of concerns have been addressed, but he said he still has doubts that the tests are a reliable measure of learning. "There's a lot more to education than test scores," he said.
Following is a look at how other area school systems fared:
Baltimore public schools ranked last in the state's third annual local school "report card."
XTC In the 1991-1992 school year, Baltimore met state standards only in elementary school promotion and in the number of 11th graders passing the reading test required to graduate.
According to the state report card, Baltimore schools fell behinon 11 of 13 standards. Last year, the city failed to make the grade in all but one category.
But the city posted a number of subtle improvements over last year in attendance, truancy and the percentage of 9th graders taking and passing the state's mandatory reading and writing tests.
Baltimore County met 11 of the state's 13 criteria for judging school systems.
The county, ranked fifth in the state, received excellent ratings in four criteria and satisfactory for the remaining seven areas where it met the standard.
County schools fell short of the standard in attendance among students in grades seven through 12 and in the percentage of students passing the ninth-grade citizenship test.
Just over 93 percent of the students in grades seven to 12 attended school on an average day; 95 percent is considered satisfactory.
On the citizenship test, 84.7 percent passed when taking it the first time. A satisfactory rating requires 85 percent to pass.
The county received excellent ratings in promoting students in grades one to six; in the numbers of students passing the reading test the first time; and in the numbers of students passing the reading and writing tests in the 11th grade.
Carroll school officials were beaming yesterday about being one of only two counties in the state to meet all 13 standards on the school report card.
Howard schools also met all the standards and did better than schools in Carroll. But Superintendent R. Edward Shilling noted that the amount spent per pupil is much lower in Carroll.
Although it ranks 12th in the state in wealth, Carroll County ranks 17th in per-pupil spending, at $5,076. Carroll would have to add $36 million to its $112 million budget to spend as much per pupil as Howard does.
Despite high marks elsewhere, Carroll again showed a low percentage of graduates who took a course load satisfying entrance requirements to the University of Maryland. Only 39.2 percent of Carroll students met those requirements, compared with 42.5 percent statewide.
Officials said they were not worried, however, because the county came in third in the percentage of students who go on to attend four-year colleges -- 39.7 percent.
Harford schools are moving steadily toward meeting statewide requirements by 1995, but there is still a wide disparity in scores between students in wealthier areas and students who live in poorer areas.
"Students who live in an environment where there are higher socio-economic standards are going to do better on these kind of tests than students who live in less affluent areas," said Superintendent Ray R. Keech.
Overall, results for 11th graders did not change. Students received an excellent in reading and satisfactory in math, writing and citizenship -- the same as last year.
However, ninth-grade students taking the test for the first time dropped from excellent to satisfactory in reading and from satisfactory to unsatisfactory in writing. Scores in citizenship climbed from unsatisfactory last year to satisfactory this year.
The county did not receive a grade in math this year because it participated in a pilot program where students took the test as eight-graders instead of ninth graders.
Howard County schools ranked at the top again in the state's report cards, passing all categories and earning a satisfactory mark for the first time for attendance among seventh- to 12th-graders.
It was the third consecutive time the school system came out on top in the state board of education's Maryland School Performance.
For the first time, the report broke down test scores by race and gender. White high school students ranked highest in passing state functional tests, at 98.3 percent for males and females. Black male students ranked lowest, at 87.6 percent.
Individual school-by-school results are on Page 6B.