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Elementaries show modest, steady progress

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County's elementary school students overall scored slightly above state averages in this year's reading and math assessments and showed steady, if modest, gains countywide. But a significant gap remains between the county's lowest- and highest-performing schools, according to preliminary results of this year's statewide assessments released yesterday.

For example, while all third-graders at Summit Park, Timonium and Chadwick elementary schools passed the reading exam, only about a third of the third-graders at Riverview, Mars Estates and Featherbed Lane elementaries passed.

Similarly, while all fourth-graders at Carroll Manor, Kingsville and Summit Park passed the math test, just over half of fourth-graders passed it at Featherbed Lane and about two-thirds of the students at Sandalwood and Woodmoor passed.

School officials said yesterday that they would take more time to sift through the results before drawing conclusions, in part because the numbers are preliminary and some could be subject to corrections or appeals.

"It's important that we take the time to examine the data as it relates to our students and our schools, and that we take the time to relate this set of indicators with other indicators as we track the progress of our school system," said Kara Calder, county schools spokeswoman.

Those other indicators include student performance on the SAT and participation in Advanced Placement courses, she said.

Countywide, averages for different grades ranged from a high of 88 percent of fourth-graders passing the math exam to 78 percent of fifth-graders passing the reading test.

Three schools - Logan, Dundalk and Sandalwood elementaries - that posted drops of at least 26 percentage points in last year's third-grade math results rebounded this time around. Dundalk showed the highest gain, an increase of nearly 20 percent points. Logan and Sandalwood each saw their scores jump about 11 percentage points.

In the coming days, school officials will review the results in relation to variables, such as community influences, that affect student learning. In the longer term, the results will be tracked student-by-student, grade-by-grade to chart progress of individual children, Calder said.

An unexpected result in yesterday's release was the performance at Red House Run Elementary, the Rosedale school that was named a Maryland Blue Ribbon school earlier this year.

About 80 percent of the school's third-graders passed the reading exam, which was a pass rate comparable to the countywide average, but it was a 17.3 percentage-point drop from the school's performance last year. About 80 percent of third-graders passed the math exam, a dip of nearly 8 percentage points from last year.

Red House Run Elementary was among seven Maryland schools to earn the Blue Ribbon distinction based on their performance on the 2005-2006 Maryland School Assessment. Blue Ribbon schools have to score in the top 10 percent of all schools on the MSA or serve economically disadvantaged communities and produce test scores that show improvements over three years and are in the top 40 percent statewide.

Red House Run Elementary, where about 40 percent of the students receive free or reduced-priced meals, has shown significant progress on statewide assessments.

Of the third-graders who took the exam in 2006, 98 percent scored proficient or advanced on the reading exam, compared with a statewide average of 78.3 percent proficient or advanced.

Overall, the school's third-, fourth- and fifth-graders scored well above statewide averages on the 2006 reading and math MSA tests.

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