SAT Scores Continue Decline, ACT Scores Increase

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

According to the Maryland Report Card, the 2016 mean composite SAT score for Prince George’s County high schools is ten points lower than it was in 2015, representing the eighth straight year of decline. Since 2008 — the earliest year for which data is available — the mean composite score has dropped by nearly 100 points, from 1282 to 1185. The composite score includes a math, critical reading, and writing component*; the maximum score is 2400. The school system’s mean math subscore was 392 in 2016, compared with 397 the previous year. The mean 2016 critical reading and writing subscores were 403 and 390 respectively, compared with 405 and 393 in 2015.

One possible explanation for the decline is that the number of test takers was slightly higher compared with the year before (6,669 vs. 6,630 in 2015), though the cohort of seniors appears to be smaller, based on Maryland Report Card data.

While SAT scores have been declining since 2008, ACT scores in the county have been inching up. The mean composite score in 2016 was 19, compared with 18 in 2015, and 17, in 2008. (The maximum ACT score is 36.) While the number of PGCPS students taking the ACT has increased significantly (1,183 in 2016 compared with 871 in 2008), it is still much smaller than the number of students taking the SAT. It is interesting to note that an ACT score of 19 puts a test taker at about the 44th percentile, compared with students nationwide, making PGCPS’s ACT performance look respectable, if not impressive. (Looking at PGCPS’s SAT scores in the context of national benchmarks and percentile ranks presents a much bleaker picture.)

The table below shows the average reading, math, and writing subscores and the average composite SAT scores for 2016 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, 2015, is displayed in either red or green. (For example, at the Academy of Health Sciences, the average reading SAT score was 542 in 2016, eight points higher than it was in 2015.)

SAT_table

Mean SAT scores for college-bound seniors, as reported by the MSDE on the 2016 Maryland Report Card; changes (+/-) from 2015.

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A Closer Look at 7th Grade Math PARCC Scores

by Lori Morrow

Over the next two months, PGCPS will administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test for the third year. For more about PARCC visit the PGCPS website at http://www1.pgcps.org/parcc/.

In late September 2016, PGCPS announced that students had made gains on the PARCC test at most grade levels. However, there was an exception for seventh grade, my child’s grade. According to a PGCPS press release, “Overall, the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations was higher this year, with the exception of the seventh-grade math test, whose testing pool excluded higher-performing students enrolled in eighth-grade math or Algebra I.”

I had initially missed the note about this “exception” but began to look closer at PARCC scores on the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Maryland Report Card after receiving my son’s individual score sheet in October. I was surprised to see so few Level 4 or Level 5 scores for the Math 7 test; those blocks were labeled only with an asterisk, indicating less than 5%. Why had this cohort—students who took the MSA in fifth grade and started with PARCC in sixth grade—fallen behind?

In an email response, PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said that the apparent drop for the Math 7 scores was due to a change in the testing pool. He explained that in the spring of 2015, seventh-grade students, regardless of their math class, took the PARCC score aligned with their grade, Math 7. However, in 2016, PGCPS chose to have seventh-grade students enrolled in Honors Math/Accelerated 2 take the Math 8 PARCC exam, since the accelerated course curriculum was designed to cover Math 7 and 8. This is a question that I never thought to ask when I attended PARCC nights in the spring, but it made a difference in the score results.

On the MSDE website, it is not intuitive that some students are tested at a level other than their assigned grade before high school. Results are broken down by test level and demographics but not by student’s grade. Furthermore, my follow-up questions to PGCPS about the results of seventh graders alone were met with the answer that the information was not publicly available. I knew that my child’s score level had dropped from taking the Math 6 PARCC test in sixth grade to taking the Math 8 PARCC in seventh grade, but I wanted to know how the rest of the seventh graders in Honors/Accelerated 2 fared on the Math 8 exam. After filing a Maryland Public Information Act request, I received the results.

pgcps parcc2016 with mpia

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Maryland Legislative Session: The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment

The following is a testimony given by Genevieve Demos Kelley at the Maryland House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee Public Hearing on February 18th, 2016, in support of House Bill 657, a bill that would limit the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment to a random sample of students. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

Image 2-20-16 at 4.28 PMThank you for giving me the opportunity to speak in support of HB 657. I am a mother of two boys: a seven-year-old in the Prince George’s County school system and a four-year-old who is still in preschool.

My older son started kindergarten in the fall of 2013, one year before the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment was implemented statewide. I vividly remember the mix of anxiety and excitement that we both experienced as I took him to his classroom and then said goodbye. Of course I wanted him to learn to read and and to write, but most of all, I wanted him to learn to love learning, to learn to love school. And he did! He was fortunate to have a teacher who sparkled in the classroom. Her lessons were engaging, and she cared about her students. I was confident that my son was in good hands.

The next school year, as my son was adjusting to first grade, I kept hearing the same complaints from parents in my community whose kids had just entered kindergarten: Their children were underwhelmed, and they did not understand why the kindergarten teachers were so frequently absent.

Eventually, an article in the Washington Post and a quick google search led me to MSEA’s Report and Recommendations on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment. I learned about the terrible disruption to the classroom that this new test was causing, as teachers were required to administer a one-on-one test to every child in their class. Hundreds of teachers had responded to MSEA’s survey, and I found pages and pages of heartbreaking comments from teachers — teachers who felt that they were no longer able to do their jobs effectively during the critical first few weeks of school.

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Teachers Concerned about Time-Consuming Test for Kindergarteners

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

IMG_6404I have been a teacher in Maryland for over 33 years and I have never had anything impact my instruction negatively as the administration and recording of the KRA.  — from MSEA’s Survey of Kindergarten Teachers, (Appendix I, p. 34)

Maryland’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA), introduced during the 2014-2015 school year, is designed to measure a child’s readiness for school in four areas: Language & Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being & Motor Development, and Social Foundations.

On the surface, this sounds reasonable: Teachers have always assessed their incoming students’ skills, so that they can better meet the needs of the class. But the outcry from kindergarten teachers over this new assessment was so loud that the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) asked that the use of the KRA be suspended until “critical revisions” are made. A 100-plus page report issued by MSEA documents survey data and narrative responses from hundreds of kindergarten teachers.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly negative. Teachers are deeply concerned about the loss of instructional time, and they see little value in the data generated by the test.

  • The test is administered by the child’s kindergarten teacher — not an assistant or other staff member — on a one-on-one basis. Since the assessment occurs during the school day, instructional time is lost as teachers pull students for testing and substitutes take their place. Here are comments from three teachers who responded to MSEA’s survey:
    • The time used to administer the KRA…could be used to pull small groups, work one-on-one with students, provide enrichment to students, collect data for progress reports, etc. (p.2).
    • Some of the fun projects we do in the beginning of the year, that go along with the curriculum, have gone by the way side (Appendix I, p. 58).

    • The first few months of school are the most important in setting routines, expectations and getting to know my children. I have spent more hours ignoring their needs or handing off instruction to substitutes then I can count (Appendix I, p.1).
  • Initially, teachers were told that the test would take about 45 minutes for each child. But according to the Maryland State Education Association’s (MSEA) survey of kindergarten teachers, about 80% of teachers found that the test took more than hour to administer. Nearly one in five teachers (17.7%) reported that the test took over two hours. Multiplying this by the number of kindergarteners in each class means many hours of lost instruction.

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PGCPS to Host Four PARCC Nights for Parents

With the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test window opening on April 18th and closing on May 31st, many teachers are beginning to prepare their students. These computer-based assessments, introduced in the spring of 2015, are Maryland’s new accountability program and are designed to measure college and career readiness. Beginning in third grade, students in elementary, middle, and high school will take both Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) sections of the PARCC. Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) will involve parents in these preparations by hosting four parent nights in the upcoming weeks.

Each event will feature an address from a representative of the Maryland State Department of Education. PGCPS staff will explain the PARCC assessment, the student score reports, and current preparations happening in classrooms. This information will be followed by breakout sessions including topics pertaining to parents of Pre-K through high schools students as well as English Language Leaners and special education students.

Registration in advance is strongly encouraged. Parents may register here. (Language interpretation services will be provided in Spanish but registration is required for ASL or any other language.)

Locations and dates are as follows:

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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: