Howard County schools posted the best performance in the state for the fourth year in a row on Maryland's annual school report card, the only district to meet state standards in 13 categories.
But like all other Maryland school systems, Howard failed to meet proposed standards in the 12 categories of a new statewide testing program that measures how well students use what they are taught in the classroom.
The 33,000-student district received eight excellent and five satisfactory marks in the Maryland School Performance Program Report, which measured performance of the state's 24 school districts in the 1992-93 school year.
The report, issued yesterday, also indicates that Howard County's black students are closing the gap on academic achievement, although they still lagged behind their Asian and white counterparts.
Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said he was pleased with the school system's overall progress, though he said more work needs to be done.
"What makes us successful is the quality of the staff we have," he said. "Fortunately, we didn't have to lay off any of them [because of budget cutbacks]. They were able to make up through good teaching, despite the loss of supplies and materials. I think the credit is theirs."
Others around the county agreed.
"We have a community in Howard County that is dedicated to quality education, and teachers and support personnel who are devoted . . . to their students," said James R. Swab, president of the local teachers union. "We have a community that prides itself on education."
"Obviously, PTA Council is pleased with the result," said Lynn Benton, president of the countywide PTA group. "I think we have excellent teachers and an earlier investment in curriculum development and staff development. A big part of it also is we have involved parents."
In this year's report, Howard posted the state's lowest annual high school dropout rate, 1.65 percent, compared with the state average of 5.3 percent. It also reported the second-highest elementary school attendance rate, 96.1 percent, and the fourth-highest high school attendance rate, 94.5 percent.
"I'm glad we were able to maintain our position," Dr. Hickey said of the school system's performance. "I hope that underscores for the citizens in the county that their education dollars are being well spent."
Howard, which spent an average of $6,481 per student last year, compared with $5,823 statewide, also had the lowest percentage of students on free and reduced-price meals -- 6.7 percent, compared with 28.2 percent statewide.
One major improvement this year came in the area of black student Black female ninth-graders, for example, made major strides on the functional math test, one of four tests all students must pass to graduate. Last year, 73 percent of black ninth-grade females passed, up from 60 percent the previous year.
As a group, those students still lagged behind Asian ninth-grade females, who had a 92.8 percent pass rate and white ninth-grade females, who had a 91.7 percent pass rate.
The county did not meet any of the state's proposed standards on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, which tests how well third-, fifth- and eighth- grade students apply what they have learned in math, science, social studies and reading.
Even so, said Dr. Hickey, the county "came out . . . pretty well, given that nobody met the standards. . . . I expect we'll do good leaps in that area in the next two years."
The state has not yet given final approval for proposed passing rates on the new math, science, reading and social studies tests.
More than half the county's 31 elementary schools scored excellent marks in the categories on which they are judged: the promotion rate and the attendance rate. There was no score for Rockburn elementary, which opened this fall.
Among middle schools, Dunloggin was the only one to earn a mark of excellent in all categories. There were no test results for Burleigh Manor middle, which opened two years ago, or for Mount View middle, which opened this fall.
Among high schools, Centennial again ranked the highest, with excellent performance in 10 of the 11 high school categories. The school's one satisfactory score was in attendance, 95.8 percent, just shy of the 96 percent rate necessary for a score of excellent.
Mount Hebron ranked second among high schools, with excellent performance in eight categories. It scored satisfactory in two categories: attendance, 94.9 percent; and the pass rate among 11th graders in the state's functional math test, 98.6 percent.
Glenelg ranked third among high schools, with excellent performance in eight categories and satisfactory in three. Hammond posted excellent scores in seven categories and satisfactory scores in four.
Three high schools received at least one unsatisfactory grade.
Oakland Mills lagged behind in attendance, while Howard posted an unsatisfactory attendance rate and an unsatisfactory
pass rate for ninth graders taking the math test required for graduation.
Wilde Lake, meanwhile, received unsatisfactory grades in four categories: the pass rate for ninth graders taking the citizenship test needed to graduate; the rates of 11th-graders taking the math and citizenship graduation tests; and the attendance rate, which stood at 92.7 percent.
L Here is a look at how schools elsewhere in the region fared.
Anne Arundel County public schools met statewide standards in 12 of 13 areas, two more than last year, according to the statewide report card issued yesterday.
The exception was the countywide dropout rate -- 3.76 percent for Anne Arundel County schools compared to a minimum state standard of 3 percent. The statewide standard for excellence is a 1.25 percent dropout rate.
Annual attendance rates slipped slightly -- falling to 95.5 percent for grades 1-6, compared to 95.8 percent last year, and 94.2 percent for grades 7-12, compared to 94.8 percent last year -- but remained within the minimum standard.
Thomas Twombly, president of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, noted that only six other jurisdictions met 12 out of 13 standards. "We're in the top one-third of the state," he said. "I'd say that means we're a good school system."
Baltimore City's school system placed at the bottom of the state, meeting standards in only two of the 13 areas.
The city achieved an excellent rating for 11th-graders on the reading portion of functional tests, with 99.1 percent passing. The 178-school system also met the standard for elementary school promotion, with a 97 percent promotion rate.
Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said that while the city still falls far short of goals, it has shown progress in elementary and middle school attendance, middle school scores on functional tests and attendance at most high schools.
He lamented an increase in the high school dropout rate, from 16.4 percent to 18.5 percent, and said, "We have to give them more relevance and hope in school. While we are improving, we have an awful lot of work to do. We know that."
Baltimore County schools met 10 of the 13 state standards, one fewer than last year. The schools maintained four excellent ratings and six satisfactory ratings, as they did last year.
The county's dropout rate for high school students slipped from a satisfactory 3 percent to an unsatisfactory 3.32 percent. As they did last year, the schools also failed to make the grade in secondary school attendance (92.9 percent) and in how many ninth-graders passed the functional citizenship test (84.9 percent). On the latter standard, county students missed the satisfactory mark by one-tenth of 1 percent.
On the comprehensive test of basic skills given students in grades 3, 5 and 8, reading comprehension scores were up at all levels, but math and language scores dropped. Superintendent Stuart Berger called the report card a "wake-up call for the school system" and said he intends to meet every state standard in the future.
Carroll County Schools met standards in 12 of 13 categories, one fewer than last year. Superintendent R. Edward Shilling was neither surprised nor bothered.
The only category in which Carroll schools didn't meet the standard was attendance at the secondary level, a result of making up snow days in June instead of asking the state for a waiver. Some students did not attend the final week of school because of commitments to vacations and camps.
Of the 12 standards Carroll schools met, nine were at the "excellent," level, which is as high as any district scored, Mr. Shilling said.
He said the schools continue to be among the top-performing in the state while spending below the state average per pupil. Carroll County spends $5,089 per student. The state average is $5,823.
An upbeat Harford County schools superintendent was enthusiastic about the county meeting 11 of the 13 state standards in the 1993 school report card, one more than last year.
Harford schools achieved an excellent rating in seven of the categories and satisfactory in four other areas. Last year, the school system met only 10 of the 13 objectives, with two excellent and eight satisfactory ratings.
Harford seventh through 12th graders did not meet the attendance and dropout standards. The attendance rate was 93.1 percent, below the 94 percent required for a satisfactory rating. The dropout rate was 3.26 percent, just over the 3 percent standard.
"We are absolutely proud, extremely happy to report student progress," Superintendent Ray R. Keech said.