The state test scores for Van Bokkelen Elementary School in (( Severn, Maryland's first failing suburban elementary school, /^ improved this year, but not by much.
The composite index for the school -- a formula that evaluates third- and fifth-grade performance on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) tests as well as attendance rate and other variables -- rose from 18.46 in 1995 to 19.25 this year, according to test information released yesterday by the state Department of Education.
The gain is about 4.3 percent.
But education officials say it is too early to read much into scores for Van Bokkelen Elementary School.
"That they didn't drop any further is good," said Mark Moody, assistant state superintendent for planning, results and information.
Based on abysmal 1995 MSPAP scores, the state demanded an overhaul of Van Bokkelen and threatened to take over the school.
This year, the fifth-grade showed some key improvements. The third-grade did not.
Among the fifth-graders, 7.5 percent received satisfactory scores reading tests, compared to 3.6 percent last year. The percentage receiving satisfactory writing scores nearly doubled, from 4.2 percent to 8.1 percent; and math scores went from 8.3 percent satisfactory to 12.9 percent.
The state standard is 70 percent of students performing at a satisfactory level, showing that Van Bokkelen has a long way to go.
Troubling third-grade scores included: A drop from 7.8 percent to 6 percent in reading and from 17.3 percent to 12.2 percent in writing, and an imperceptible improvement in math from 12 percent to 12.1 percent.
But state and local school officials say they were not expecting much from this year's tests. A new principal, Rose Tasker, arrived in February, a few changes were made in March and April, and the test was given in early May.
"The proof of the pudding is what transpires at Van Bokkelen, not this year, next year. Next year's data become more important. We ought to start seeing some significant improvements," Moody said.
Schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham said she was pleased with Van Bokkelen's performance because Tasker was laying groundwork for this year.
"We are building a path for those kids to learn," Parham said.
Since February, school officials have spent nearly $500,000 for teachers, books and equipment for the school. The focus is on preschool through second-grade basic skills and on schoolwork, said Nancy Mann, director of instruction.
Mann said her fall visit to Van Bokkelen was "a joy." Students were disciplined and "a first-grader told me, 'Mrs. Tasker says this is a school for excellence. This is not a school for fighting. It is a school for learning.' "
Since February, school officials have been saying they "don't want another Van Bokkelen." They will not have one this winter.
Parham said no Anne Arundel schools are on the state's 1997 list of failing schools.
State school officials singled out Anne Arundel County as the sole large school system to show constant, significant overall gains -- 10.7 points -- since 1993.
The state exams measure 18 areas in grades three, five and eight; assess four high school subjects and measure the absentee and dropout rates.
Overall, county students improved in 15 of the areas. In 14 of the areas they were above the state average. That individually some schools may waver in their progress in a single year should not cause panic, Parham said.
"It's almost like weight loss. You lose some weight, then you fatso out, but over the long haul, you keep losing the weight," she said.
Scores rose in all six categories in the county's middle schools, a welcome sign amid hand-wringing over the generally poor performance of middle school students.
"It certainly bears out the fact that we have put more emphasis on middle school instruction. But it still says there is work to be done," Parham said.
A breakdown for each county school will not be available until late next week.
Pub Date: 12/13/96