RESULTS OF THE latest state report card show Carroll County schools continuing to excel, ranking second only to Howard County in overall scores in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.
That achievement should be doubly satisfying because Carroll spends about $1,000 less per pupil on education than neighboring Howard, and Carroll's teacher-to-pupil ratio is one of the highest in the state.
It is an impressive rejoinder to those who claim that more money and more teachers are keys to academic success, at least as measured in the state's annual "red book" report cards on all public schools.
More than anything, Carroll's performance in the MSPAP tests that are given third-, fifth- and eighth-graders shows a commitment to teaching the kinds of learning and thinking skills required for the annual exams. There is abundant evidence that the classroom adaptation to the MSPAP testing requirements occurred in Carroll schools early on, and has continued to develop without resistance.
As in much of Maryland, Carroll fifth-graders showed the strongest improvement in last spring's tests in the six basic subject areas. Perhaps it is an indication that more years of practice (the MSPAP has been given for six years) in teaching and individual test-taking raise performance levels. Eighth-graders also raised their overall test marks from last year, but not by as many percentage points.
Statewide, 19 of 24 school systems registered improvements in test grades. Average scores were better in 15 of 18 subject areas (six in three grades) tested.
Still, ample room for improvement exists in Carroll and across Maryland. Only four schools met the state standard (70 percent of students achieving a "satisfactory" rating on all six tests) this year, and none was in Carroll. Only some 55 percent of all test-takers in Carroll achieved a satisfactory score. (One disturbing grade in non-test areas: a dropout rate of 3 percent.)
Progress does not occur in a straight line, it fluctuates. That reflects the difficulty of MSPAP tests, and varying individual capabilities. But the overall trend is encouraging for Carroll County schools, while highlighting weaknesses to be addressed for next spring.
Pub Date: 12/17/96