Elementary schools progress, but not middle schools
Changes in MSAs factor into latest results
While most of the county's elementary schools made adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, more middle schools have been placed on a watch list as needing attention.
On Tuesday, county school leaders said that 26 out of 38 middle schools met progress standards this year, down significantly from 33 schools last year.
Among the county's elementary schools, 127 of 130 met federal progress standards this year. That's up from last year, when 124 of the county's elementary schools made progress, according to school system information.
Several reasons factor into the decline in middle school progress, school leaders said.
This was the first year that the state Department of Education offered modified Maryland School Assessments to special-education students, and the low pass rate — 39 percent in reading and 23 percent in mathematics — "likely contributed to the increased number of middle schools not meeting AYP [this year]," Superintendent Jerry D. Weast wrote in a memo to the school board.
Also, the state education department has a new way of assigning schools to a "school improvement" category. Under a program approved by then-Education secretary Margaret Spellings, the state now identifies schools needing improvement in two ways: "comprehensive needs" and "focused needs."
Schools identified for comprehensive needs don't meet progress standards in the all-students category, or they struggle to meet targets in three or more student subgroups. Those identified for focused needs have met targets for students overall, but have not met targets in one or two areas.
Gaithersburg and Forest Oak middle schools in Gaithersburg and Neelsville Middle School in Germantown were identified for focused needs, while Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville was identified for comprehensive needs.
This year marks the fifth consecutive year that none of the county's Title I elementary schools are on the state's list for school improvement.
Title I schools have more low-income students than do other schools. Schools placed in school improvement have not made progress in at least one category or subgroup, according to MSDE information.
Four schools — Briggs Chaney Middle School and Silver Spring International Middle School in Silver Spring, Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg, and Newport Mill Middle School in Kensington — left the state watch list this year because they met overall progress targets for two consecutive years.
Of the elementary and middle schools that did not meet progress targets this year, 12 have been identified as needing local attention, but were not placed in the school improvement category.
Schools needing "local attention" either did not meet progress standards for the first time, or they did not meet a target for two consecutive years.
Twelve schools were identified for local attention: A. Mario Loiederman, Argyle, Eastern and Sligo middle schools in Silver Spring; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Roberto W. Clemente middle schools and Waters Landing Elementary School in Germantown; Flower Hill and Summit Hall elementary schools in Gaithersburg; Julius West Middle School and Carl Sandburg Learning Center in Rockville; and Montgomery Village Middle School.
Overall, the progress results were positive, said Stephen L. Bedford, the school system's chief school performance officer. In 2007, he said, 17 elementary and middle schools were in the school improvement category; last year, there were 10 schools.
This year, four schools were identified.
"We're decreasing the number of schools [in improvement], while the criteria for making [progress] has gone up," Bedford said. "I think that's a pretty big deal."