New report reveals Anne Arundel schools trail neighboring counties, state average

Lauren Lumpkin
Contact Reporterllumpkin@capgaznews.com

Anne Arundel County schools trail neighboring counties in new state educational rankings released by the Maryland State Department of Education Tuesday.

Local schools also lag behind the statewide average, according to a new rating system that awards schools between one and five stars based on performance indicators like standardized test scores, progress in achieving language proficiency for English learners, access to a well-rounded curriculum and college readiness.

Anne Arundel County schools, on average, received three-star ratings. The statewide average is 3.5 stars.

Schools in Baltimore and Prince George’s counties averaged 3.6 and 3.3 starts, respectively. Howard County schools scored an average of 4.3 stars.

Montgomery County has the highest number of five-star schools, with 50. Baltimore City has 23 one-star rated schools, the most of any jurisdiction.

The report represents the statewide efforts to achieve greater transparency. The star ratings are part of school accountability standards required by the federal government under the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

Maryland has produced school report cards for two decades, with standardized test scores, enrollment data and school demographics. But this iteration — for the first time — provides data on achievement gaps, graduation rates, chronic absenteeism, and other factors in a single database.

Officials say the newly released data will give students, parents and teachers a more comprehensive glimpse into hundreds of schools statewide, officials said.

Locally, administrators plan to use the data as a tool to measure school performance.

“We, along with our schools, are eager to use this baseline data as another measure in the context of our Strategic Plan, which remains our guiding force to help every single student achieve his or her full potential,” said county schools Superintendent George Arlotto in a statement.

Three out of every four schools in Anne Arundel County earned three or more stars. Five schools — Severna Park High, Severna Park Middle, Magothy River Middle, Central Middle and Chesapeake Science Point — received five-star ratings. Phoenix Academy and Anne Arundel Evening High are the only schools with one-star ratings.

Twenty-six schools received two-star ratings, 57 schools got three-star ratings and 24 schools scored four stars.

Phoenix, an alternative school in Annapolis that serves 240 students in alternative and special education programs, consistently underperformed in academic achievement and school quality measures, such as math and English proficiency and academic progress. Just over half of students are not chronically absent, according to report card data.

Much of the data in the report card reflects what administrators already know — there are stark achievement gaps between black and white students, and Latino and white students.

Search by school: Star ratings for every Maryland elementary, middle and high school »

Nearly 23 percent of black high schoolers in Anne Arundel County are math proficient, compared to 56 percent of white high school students, according to report card data. About 34 percent of Hispanic and Latino high school students are proficient in English Language Arts, compared to almost 55 percent of white students.

Similar disparities exist at the elementary and middle school levels.

Achievement gaps continue to widen for students in special education classes and students who are learning English, according to report card data.

Individual ratings were published for 114 of the county’s 123 public schools. Nine schools, including the Center of Applied Technology North and South, Central Special and Marley Glen, were not rated because they didn’t meet minimum requirements for accountability results to be reported.

While school data and ratings reveal important information about the educational experience in county schools, the numbers do not tell the entire story. There are dozens of other factors that affect learning and student performance.

And, while this mode of data collection in still in its early stages, the report is imperfect.

For example, AACPS elementary schools scored 0 out of 15 points in the access to well-rounded curriculum and credit for a well-rounded curriculum categories.

“This is due to the fact that, while quality instruction in these areas was provided, when the indicators were established in the middle of the 2017-18 school year, AACPS had no mechanism in place to track which specific fifth-graders experienced all of the health standards in the different curriculums,” said school officials in a statement. “Given the inconsistency of the data, Superintendent George Arlotto made the decision not to report any fifth-grade student as having met standards in these two categories.”

Fifth-graders’ access to health class curriculum will now be tracked. Officials anticipate “almost every elementary school will earn an additional star” next year.

This data is only the first step in a statewide push toward achieving greater school accountability.

The Maryland State Department of Education in the coming years plans to provide more data broken down by student groups, as well as equity scores, school staff and finance information, comparison and analysis tools, student and faculty survey results, and more.

The state also plans to collect and report civil rights data for each school district.

“The new Maryland Report Card will help parents, educators, policymakers, and the general public gain a better understanding about how each school is doing based on our accountability measures. Together we are working toward making sure our schools are the best they can be,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools, in a statement.

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