Despite gains, Prince George's schools remain state's lowest-rated system
All middle, 51 elementary schools fail to meet annual progress benchmarks
Although Maryland School Assessment scores released Tuesday show a steady rise in many categories, Prince George's County remains the only school system in corrective action in the state, failing to meet state benchmarks on the elementary or middle school level.
All 25 middle schools in the county failed to make benchmark improvements, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP. Out of 137 county elementary schools, 51 failed to meet AYP.
To earn AYP, schools must make progress in reading and math for all demographics and meet the testing participation requirement of 95 percent. The goal under the No Child Left Behind Act is to have all students meet the requirements by 2014.
"AYP gives you a goal to reach and I think it's the minimum kids need to achieve in order to be successful," District 3 school board member Pat Fletcher said Wednesday. "I don't want to make excuses. It still says to me that there are some things that need to be fixed."
After the 2002 implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, Prince George's County and Baltimore City school systems were identified as school systems in need of improvement, said Maryland State Department of Education spokesman Bill Reinhard. However, Baltimore City was able to exit corrective action in 2009 after making significant gains in achievement on the elementary level, leaving Prince George's County school system as the only of 24 jurisdictions in corrective action in the state.
"The scores aren't exactly where we would like to see them," school board chairwoman Verjeana Jacobs (At large) said Tuesday. "As we look at our goals over time, it seems to be a pretty steady increase, but we do have some areas we need to look at."
County students made the biggest improvements in sixth-grade reading, jumping from 75.9 percent of students passing the test last year to 81.1 percent this year. The state average for sixth-grade reading is 86.1 percent.
Jacobs said more work needs to be done at the middle-school level, particularly eighth grade, where math scores dropped to 41.2 percent passing from 43.2 percent in 2009. It was the lowest pass rate category in the county. This puts the county more than 22 percentage points behind the state average for eighth-grade students in math, according to the Maryland State Department of Education.
The second lowest pass rate was seventh-grade math, at 53.8 percent.
"We saw some changes overall in eighth grade, and that sort of fits into our need for secondary [curriculum] reform," Jacobs said.
Theresa Saunders, president to the county's council of PTAs, said students need to be making larger gains so they can be competitive with their peers in college and the workforce.
"Although our scores reflect an overall slight increase, that is not good enough," Saunders said. "We have to work together to redefine our expectations for our youth and not lose focus on their needs to achieve beyond the current standards."
Eleven elementary schools Suitland Elementary, Springhill Lake Elementary in Greenbelt, Rosa L. Parks Elementary in Hyattsville, Rogers Heights Elementary in Bladensburg, Melwood Elementary in Upper Marlboro, Overlook Elementary in Temple Hills, Indian Queen Elementary in Fort Washington, High Bridge Elementary in Bowie, District Heights Elementary, Flintstone Elementary in Oxon Hill and Carole Highland Elementary in Takoma Park failed to meet AYP for the second year in a row and entered "school improvement" status, a reform phase upheld by the state that can require schools to make changes such as replacing staff or providing additional training if they have not made progress for two consecutive years.
On the elementary school level, 78.4 and 77.5 percent of county test-takers scored proficient or advanced in reading and math, respectively. On average across the state, 86.9 percent of elementary students scored proficient or advanced in reading and 86.5 percent scored proficient or advanced in math.
On the middle school level, 72.9 and 55.8 percent of county test-takers scored proficient or advanced in reading and math, respectively, compared to 83.8 and 72.6 percent on average across the state.
Some schools, including Concord Elementary in District Heights and Allenwood Elementary in Temple Hills, made double-digit gains.
School board vice-chair Ron Watson (At large) and member Amber Waller (At large) declined to comment.