PGCPS Elementary Foreign Language Offerings

by Katherine McElhenny

IMG_7154Have you ever wondered about the foreign language offerings at your local elementary school? Or how your school compares to others in the district?

No? Neither had I until recently.

Our family was out at a restaurant when we ran into a friend whose daughter had attended nursery school with my daughter. Immediately, the two kindergartners began comparing their schools. Our friend was proud of her brand new uniforms and Chinese classes. My daughter boasted of her Russian classes.

The parents were taken aback.

Chinese? Russian? Who knew? What was offered elsewhere? My curiosity was piqued.

A compilation of the district’s foreign language offerings was nowhere to be found on the PGCPS website.  Instead, the chart below was cobbled together from emails and calls to the World Language Office along with teachers and staff at individual schools.

Is your elementary school one of over one hundred that is not listed?  According to PGCPS, those students do not receive any foreign language instruction.

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Prince George’s County PARCC Results Released for Elementary and Middle Schools

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

classroomThe elementary and middle school test results for the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) in English Language Arts/ Literacy (ELA) and mathematics are now available on the Maryland State Department of Education’s Maryland Report Card. According to the PGCPS news release, home reports will be distributed next Monday.

Maryland is one of a shrinking number of states committed to using the new test, which was administered for the first time during the spring of the 2014-2015 school year.

Here are some key points from the data:

Fewer PGCPS Students Passed AP Exams in 2015

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

Earlier this year, we ran a story noting the six-year upward trend in Advanced Placement (AP) exam participation among students in Prince George’s County Schools. Between 2008 and 2014, participation in the AP program grew, while passing rates held steady. (Scores of three or higher, out of a possible five points, are considered passing.)

But according to numbers released on the 2015 Maryland Report Card, both the number of exams taken and the overall passing rate have declined slightly this year. Mathematics exams saw the biggest drop with a passing rate of 15.8% and 109 out of 692 exams receiving a passing score in 2015, compared with last year’s passing rate  of 19.1%, with 161 successful exams out of a total of 841 exams taken.

2008 2014 2015
AP Subject Description Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
Exams with Scores 3-5/ Exams Taken
(%Exams w/ Scores 3-5)
All Subjects 2150/7829 (27.5%) 2606/9660 (27%) 2443/9452 (25.8%)
All Fine Arts 55/120 (45.8%) 130/267 (48.7%) 95/267 (35.6%)
All English Language Arts 593/2313 (25.6%) 623/2737 (22.8%) 625/2684 (23.3%)
All Foreign Language 191/301 (63.5%) 227/308  (73.7%) 183/251 (72.9%)
All Mathematics 180/753 (23.9%) 161/841  (19.1%) 109/692 (15.8%)
All Science 682/2341 (29.1%) 775/2791 (27.8%) 778/2616 (29.7%)
All Social Studies 449/2001 (22.4%) 690/2716 (25.4%) 618/2880 (21.5%)

Source: Maryland Report Card

These numbers don’t look good, but it’s not all bad news. Let’s take a closer look at the data and put the numbers in context:

Slight Decline in Prince George’s SAT Scores for 2015

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The 2015 SAT scores for Prince George’s County high schools are now available on the Maryland Report Card. Though the school system’s average math subscore was three points higher this year than last year, 2015 saw a slight decline in both the mean composite SAT score and the number of test takers.

The table below shows the average reading, math, and writing subscores and the average composite SAT scores for 2015 college bound seniors in each of the county’s public high schools, as well as the average scores for PGCPS and the state of Maryland. Next to each score, the change from the previous year, 2014, is displayed in either red or green. For example, in Bladensburg High School, the average reading SAT score was 371 in 2015, 31 points lower than it was in 2014. The average math score was 384, two points higher than in 2014.


Mean SAT scores for college-bound seniors, as reported by the MSDE on the 2015 Maryland Report Card; changes (+/-) from 2014.

To find SAT scores for your school, for every year from 2008 to 2015, go to the Maryland Report Card and hover over the “School” tab. Choose “Prince George’s County” from the pull-down menu, then find your school. Click to open the SAT pdf file, found under the “Graphs and Tables” heading.

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PARCC Results Released for Prince George’s County

According to a PGCPS news release, the school system has received the PARCC results for the English 10, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2 tests. The new PARCC tests were administered for the first time in the spring of this year. Scores for elementary and middle school tests will be released in early December. (Update: Click here to read our story on the PARCC results for grades 3 through 8.)

Tests are scored with on a five-point grading scale, with a score of 4 indicating that expectations were met and 5 indicating that the student exceeded expectations. On the whole, Prince George’s County’s results were poor compared with the statewide results, but some PGCPS subgroups fared better than their peers: For example, 13.4% of African American students in Prince George’s County scored at a Level 4 or 5, compared with 12.8% of African American students statewide.

On the English 10 test, 28.9% of PGCPS students scored a 4 or 5, compared with 39.7% in the state of Maryland. On the Algebra 1 test, 15.1% of county students scored a 4 or 5, compared with 31.2% of students statewide. In Algebra 2, 8.3% scored a 4 or 5, compared with 23.2% of students in the state.

Read the full news release here.

To find a detailed breakdown of scores, including scores by racial/ethnic subgroup and other groups (e.g. FARMs qualifying, English language learners), go to the Maryland Report Card. Find scores for each school system in Maryland by selecting the county or city under the “County” pulldown menu.

Below is a roundup of what major news outlets have to say about the results:

  • The Washington Post reports that less than half of the Montgomery County students who took the Algebra and English tests and less than a third of those in Prince George’s County students are considered on track for college and careers, according to the PARCC test results. But deputy superintendent Shawn Joseph pointed out that Prince George’s County scores look better when broken down by racial subgroup: white students in the county outperformed their peers across the state on all three exams, and African American students beat state averages on two of the three exams.

Demographic Shifts Accompany Growth in PGCPS Enrollment

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The 2015 Maryland Report Card is here. The 2015 data are not released all at once; county-specific numbers about standardized assessments and graduation rates will be published later. But in the meantime, the report has some interesting things to say about demographic trends in enrollment.

Enrollment in Prince George’s County Public Schools has been increasing since 2013, reversing a nine-year decline. The 2015 enrollment for PGCPS is 127,576, an increase of 2,440 students from 2014 enrollment and a total increase of 3,839 students since 2013.

But not all racial/ethnic subgroups are seeing growth. Though African American students still make up the largest subgroup (62.7% of all students), enrollment among African American students has declined over the last two years, from 81,786 in 2013, to 80,821 in 2014, to 79,915 in 2015.

Meanwhile, enrollment among Latino students has climbed to 35,597. That’s an increase of 3,267 since 2014, and 5,693 since 2013. Notice that the two-year gain in enrollment in the Latino subgroup (5,693) exceeds the two-year gain in total enrollment for the school system (3,839).

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Party Endorsements Are Major Factor in Board Elections

by Tommi Makila

How do you know which candidate is most likely to win a Prince George’s County Board of Education race? As with any election, there are many factors at play. Some aspects of the candidates and races may be too difficult to analyze objectively, such as the quality of the candidates’ ideas, campaign skills, and personal effort put into campaign activities. However, many important factors affecting the campaigns are quantifiable and easily compared.

In order to determine what factor has the greatest impact on the election results, I set out to analyze the 2014 BOE races in Prince George’s County. Based on my knowledge about our elections, I identified the following four factors as major potential contributing factors to a candidate’s success:

  • Incumbency
  • Fundraising
  • Democratic Party slate endorsement
  • Other endorsements (local media, county teachers union)

To refresh everyone’s memory, here are the general election results for the four BOE elections held in 2014:

* Election winner

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Math, Reading, and Writing SAT Scores Listed by School

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

How well did county students do on the 2014 SAT? In the table below, each PGCPS high school’s average (mean) SAT subscores in critical reading, mathematics, and writing are given below, along with the mean composite score. According to the 2014 Maryland Report Card, these are the mean scores for college bound seniors. The maximum score for each subtest (i.e. reading, math, writing) is 800, and the maximum composite score is 2400. Data for the 2015 SAT scores is not yet available. (Update: Find 2015 SAT scores here.)


Data source is the 2014 Maryland Report Card. Table by Amelia Colarco and Genevieve Kelley.

The Prince George’s County mean composite score of 1199 is significantly lower than the national average (1497) and Maryland state average (1439). Eleanor Roosevelt, which has a science and technology specialty program, was the only school whose average SAT score was higher than the Maryland or national average.

To put PGCPS’s SAT performance into perspective, it is useful to compare the county’s scores with those of other test-takers in the total group (i.e. students across the U.S. and Canada) of 2014 college-bound seniors.  The College Board has published a table with the 2014 percentile ranks for the reading, mathematics, and writing SAT subscores.

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Is Smaller Really Better? School Size, Graduation Rate, and Test Scores in PGCPS

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The recently released report on school size commissioned by the Maryland State Department of Education has suggested enrollment limits set at 1,700 students for high schools, 900 students for middle schools, and 700 students for elementary schools.

Ten of PGCPS’s high schools have enrollments exceeding 1,700 students. How do these high schools perform, compared with the system’s smaller schools? Is smaller really better?

In the table below, I compare key data on PGCPS high schools from the 2014 Maryland Report Card: 1) size of enrollment, 2) the percentage of 12th graders who have passed the state assessments*, 3) the graduation rate**, 4) the mean (average) composite SAT score for 12th graders, and 5) the percentage of students qualifying for free and reduced meals (FARMs).

All data is from 2014, the most recent year available, and I have excluded alternative, vocational, and evening schools. Schools are listed in descending order by size of enrollment, and those above the dotted red line have enrollments greater than the suggested limit.

SchoolSize_Table *The number here represents the percentage of 12th graders who took all state assessments and passed all tests or met the requirement by using the combined score option. More information here.

** The graduation rate given here is the rate for the 4-year adjusted cohort.

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Smaller is Better: Maryland State Department of Education Publishes School Size Study, PG High School Sizes Vary Widely

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The Maryland State Department of Education has released a report on school size and its impact on education. The study finds that after school enrollment reaches a point where economies of IMG_6335scale no longer decrease operating costs, smaller schools are usually better.

The research team recommends that enrollment limits be set according to school level (i.e. elementary, middle, high) with a maximum of 700 students per elementary school, 900 students per middle school, and 1,700 students per high school. The report clarifies that these are recommended maximum limits, not necessarily optimal enrollment numbers.

Prince George’s County high schools have an enormous variation in size of enrollment, with some high schools more than three times as large as some others. According to data from the  Maryland Report Card, Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George’s County had an enrollment of 2,445 students in 2014, while Bowie High School was even larger, with 2,573 students. As of 2014, ten high schools in the county had more than 1,700 students, the enrollment limit recommended in the report. But, as the study points out, Prince George’s County has the largest range in high school enrollments of all Maryland counties. Several high schools in the county have fewer than 900 students. At 775 students, Surrattsville High’s enrollment is one of the lowest in the county.

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