MCPS Test Performance Drops, But Schools Say Tests Are Misaligned


Montgomery school chief Dr. Joshua Starr says the system's drop in performance on the state's 2013 standardized testing program is the result of misaligned tests, not county students, teachers or curriculum. The state released results of the 2013 Maryland School Assessments (MSA), which test elementary, middle and high school students in science, math, english and other subject areas. The percentage of MCPS elementary students who scored at the proficient or advanced levels on the test was 89.7 percent in reading and 84.5 percent in math, down 2 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively. The percentage of middle school students who scored at the proficient or advanced levels in reading increased by 0.4 points, but in math, it decreased by 3.3 points. MCPS and the Maryland State Department of Education said the test is not yet aligned with new Common Core State Standards some school systems, including Montgomery, are already implementing. "We cannot overly concern ourselves with results on lame duck tests that are not lined up with what our students are being taught," Starr said in a press release. MCPS said another reason for the drop is that the state is no longer offering a modified assessment for students with disabilities. In county middle schools, 62.8 percent of special education students scored proficient or higher, a drop of nearly 4 percent from 2012. The school system has fully implemented the Common Core curriculum through Grade 3. MCPS said Grade 3 students showed "significant gains" in MSA performance in algebra, patterns and functions, areas which the Common Core (the county has labeled it Curriculum 2.0) emphasizes. Grade 3 students saw decreases in MSA performance in geometry and measurement, which Curriculum 2.0 does not emphasize in early elementary school. Overall, MCPS third graders saw a 12.1 percentage drop in performance on the MSA. Montgomery's MSA results were better than the state averages: 89.7 percent of MCPS elementary students were proficient or advanced in reading and 84.5 percent were proficient or advanced in math. The statewide averages were 86.4 percent and 83.9 percent, respectively. Those averages also declined. In middle school, 89.3 percent of MCPS test takers scored at the proficient or advanced levels in reading and 77.9 percent got there in math. The statewide averages were 83.4 percent and 72.2 percent, respectively. All school districts in the state are expected to move to a new set of standardized tests in two years, which will be aligned to Common Core curriculum. "There’s nothing wrong with our students, our teachers, or our curriculum," Starr said. "Once the new assessments, aligned to the Common Core, are fully implemented, we’ll be able to use the results to conduct meaningful analyses and have conversations about teaching and learning. Until then, we’ll continue to focus on providing our teachers with the resources, training, and support they need to effectively teach to the Common Core."

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