MCPS Rolls Out New Data on Student Math, Reading Proficiency

Information demonstrates readiness gaps based on student demographics


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Superintendent Jack Smith presented student learning data to school board members on Monday night.

Via Montgomery County Public School

A new system for evaluating learning in Montgomery County Public Schools has shown that in some grades, fewer than half of the black and Latino students or those receiving free or reduced-price meals meet math readiness targets.

Superintendent Jack Smith on Monday night rolled out the first round of data based on the assessment system that MCPS leaders have designed over the past year. Members of the Montgomery County Board of Education took a look at information for students in grades 2, 5, 8 and 11, who were evaluated for their readiness to transition into intermediate, middle or high school or to graduate.

The data, which dealt with proficiency in English language arts and math, indicated that more than three-quarters of students across all four grade levels achieved literacy readiness standards. Overall in math, more than half of these students reached the readiness targets. 

Smith drew attention to discrepancies affecting certain populations, such as black or African-American students, Latino students and students receiving free or reduced-price meals.

“This is a national, state and local problem,” he said. “It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not, but I have a lot of confidence that we can change that picture over the coming months and years as we really get targeted and thoughtful.”

Slides showing literacy and math readiness data for Montgomery County Public Schools students in 2016-2017. Credit: Montgomery County Public Schools.

Smith’s presentation drew on information from classwork, district-level testing and state assessments. Over the past year, MCPS has been crafting a new system for tracking student achievement and progress, one that taps into multiple performance measures rather than relying heavily on a single test.

Student board member Matt Post said many of his peers have voiced frustration about how their academic performance is evaluated.

“I hear anxiety about … being defined by a single number,” he said.

As they were creating the new system, officials determined there was an excess of testing in English language and some shortfalls in assessing math proficiency, Smith said.

MCPS leaders also had to adapt their assessment plan to a new state law, the More Learning, Less Testing Act of 2017. The legislation stipulates that mandated testing can’t take up more than 2.2 percent of a student’s classroom time.

Smith stressed that student data should only steer improvement rather than acting as a weapon.

“Data should never be used to beat anybody up,” he said.

He’ll show board members a second round of data in late September as additional assessment information is released. In February, he’ll round out the picture with the release of graduation rates for the 2016-2017 school year, he said.

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