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Shifts in Maryland math curricula shown in test scores

For many students who took the Maryland School Assessments this year, parts of the math sections just didn't add up.

Amid the rollout of new curriculums aligned with the more rigorous Common Core standards, pass rates on the Maryland School Assessments plunged, with this year marking the steepest drops in the test's history because of a dive in math scores.

There was a good chance students in grades three through eight might not have recognized at least three concepts in which they were being asked to demonstrate mastery.

According to the Maryland State Department of Education, more than 30 objectives across six grade levels were included on the MSAs but were not part of the lesson plans taught in those grades this year.

In most cases, the objectives were moved to a lower grade, moved to a higher grade or not part of the Common Core at all, officials said.

The biggest shift was in fourth grade, where 11 standards included on the MSAs were not part of the Common Core.

For example, the Common Core standards do not include probability in grades three and four, but a fifth-grader might have needed that skill to figure out a fraction problem.

Under the old state curriculum, fifth-graders would have learned and been tested on how to identify and determine the equivalent of fractions, but third-graders were learning that this year.

Eighth-graders previously would have learned to use percentages, rates of increase and decrease, discounts and sales tax. Under the Common Core, that lesson was shifted to seventh grade.

In some cases, state officials said, students were being taught to apply the concepts in such a different way that they didn't recognize them on MSA questions. Or students were learning concepts that they didn't have a foundation for, requiring teachers to plug gaps.

"This year, it was as much about instruction and how the concepts are being used as it was about the changes," said Jack Smith, chief academic officer of Maryland's Department of Education.

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