Few students score high on state proficiency tests


No better than 1 percent of Anne Arundel County students in grades three, five and eight were able to complete tasks at the most difficult skill levels as part of the controversial Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests.

Most students' scores fell into the two categories that show the least proficiency in four subjects: reading, math, social studies and science.

The tests, which assign students a proficiency level of one to five, one being the highest, are designed to assess students' abilities to compare and contrast ideas, characters and events; create solutions to real-life problems; develop plans to solve problems; and show other skills.

At the high end, 1 percent of fifth-graders scored at level one in reading -- the most students to perform at that high level. At the low end, 35.5 percent of third-graders scored at level five in social studies. Among fifth-graders, 15.6 percent scored at level five in math -- the fewest students to perform at that level.

School officials refused to label the results good or bad. They said it was difficult to interpret the results in terms of what the average county student should know, because there is no statewide standard yet. Proposed standards are scheduled to be presented to the state Board of Education today.

"Is the glass half full or half empty?" asked Nancy Jane Adams, a spokeswoman for the county Board of Education. "We're saying these are skills we expect students to be able to master in grades three, five and eight by the year 2000. What we're saying is, 'Look at how many kids you've got performing at those higher levels already.' "

For example, 35.6 percent of the county's third-graders scored at level one, two or three on the reading test. Reading tests given to fifth-graders showed that 35.5 percent of students had scores in the top three proficiency levels. And 26 percent of eighth-graders showed high levels of proficiency.

Conversely, however, more than 64 percent of third- and fifth-graders scored at the bottom two proficiency levels in reading. Seventy-four percent of eighth-graders scored at the lower levels.

"The 1992 results will say 'This is where the students are now,' " Ms. Adams said. "The standards will show where we want them to be."

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