Weekly News Roundup: No Child Left Behind Rewrite Passes House

Three community meetings to discuss boundary changes, school reassignment, and consolidation have been announced. Schools to be discussed include Accokeek Academy, Buck Lodge MS, Calverton ES, Forestville HS, Fort Washington Forest ES, G. James Gholson MS, Martin L. King Jr. MS, Potomac Landing ES, Princeton ES, Skyline ES, Suitland ES, Suitland HS, William Beanes ES. Reassigning sixth graders to middle schools will also be discussed. For dates and locations, see the flyer.

Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School won the Maryland 4A state football championship on Friday, defeating Howard High School 55-6 (Sentinel). Watch highlights of the game at Fox 5.

Side by Side, a faith-based nonprofit organization in Laurel, works with parents at five elementary schools to help parents learn how to help their children succeed in school. (Baltimore Sun)

A suspicious backpack with what looked like wires sticking out of it was found at Bladensburg High School after a bomb threat was called in to the school. An inspection showed that the backpack was harmless. (NBC 4)

Derrick Leon David (D-Mitchellville) and Danielle M. Glaros (D-Riverdale Park) were elected by the Prince George’s County Council as the new chair and vice chair, respectively. According to Davis, the council is “committed to creating a more business-friendly county.” (Washington Post)

A bipartisan rewrite of 2002’s much-criticized No Child Left Behind law, bill S. 1177,  easily passed the House on Wednesday and has moved on to the Senate for a vote early next week. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA,) would give the federal government a smaller role in overseeing and guiding public education. The new legislation retains the requirement for annual testing in math and English and in grades 3 – 8 and once in high school. However, states would be able to make their own decisions about how to evaluate teachers and schools. (Washington Post)

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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.

Weekly News Roundup: Financial Literacy “Mini-city” Opens, Low PARCC and NAEP Scores

After a student filmed a PGCPS school bus driver texting while the bus was in motion, PGCPS is changing its transportation discipline handbook so that drivers who misuse cellphones on a school bus can be fired. (NBC 4)

A new financial literacy center opened Tuesday on the campus of G. James Gholson Middle School. The Prince George’s County Junior Achievement Finance Park is a partnership with PGCPS, Capitol One, and Junior Achievement of Greater Washington. It is a 13,500 square foot experiential learning center that will serve 9,000 students per year. Students visiting the center will take on a role (e.g. career, salary, financial obligations) and, using a digital tablet, put their financial skills to the test in a “mini-city” with storefronts and kiosks. (PGCPS)

Columnist Michelle Singletary writes of the need to be wary of conflict of interests in financial literacy programs. (Washington Post)

An Eleanor Roosevelt HS freshman writes an opinion piece for the Washington Post, questioning whether extracurricular activities should affect college admissions. (Washington Post)

At Central High School, a student’s cell phone went missing, and campus security searched the binder and book bag of every student in the class. Now the family of one of the students who was searched has filed a lawsuit, claiming that the search was illegal. (Washington Post)

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Weekly News Roundup: School Lunches, Arts Integration, Saturday School, and Standardized Testing

CEO Responds to School Lunch Reports:  As part of National School Lunch Week, PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell invited FOX 5 along to a Bowie school to have lunch and discuss the recent reports of substandard quality in school lunches.  FOX5

PG County School Closed Due to Fire:  Samuel Chase Elementary School in Temple Hills, MD, was closed Wednesday and Thursday due to a fire caused by an overhead fan.  Students were relocated to a nearby high school.  WTOP

State Lawmakers Investigate Overtesting Complaints:  Lawmakers in the State House and Senate hold a hearing to investigate the common complaint of too many standardized tests in schools.  WBALTV

PGCPS Officials Look to State for School Repair Funds:  Maryland Comptroller visits Suitland High School in a bid by PGCPS to have the state provide matching funds for renovations to ailing schools.  CBSDC

Arts Integration Gains Momentum:  An initiative in PGCPS to integrate arts into the classroom has expanded from 15 to 41 schools over the last year.  This follows a national trend as research emerges showing how combining arts with academics can improve learning.  The Washington Post Continue reading

Weekly News Roundup: Errors in Bus Drop-offs, SAT Scores Declining, “Less Testing, More Learning” Campaign

A seven-year-old student riding the bus was dropped off four miles from his home on Tuesday, according to his mother. This is just one of several troubling bus transportation incidents involving Prince George’s County students during the first week of school (NBC4 and WTOP). PGCPS later apologized for the error and released a video statement addressing concerns (NBC4).

Maryland SAT scores for graduating high school seniors have declined for the third year in a row. The average composite score for Maryland students (1552) is 28 points lower than the national average. ACT scores, on the other hand, increased for the third straight year. (Baltimore Sun)

The Maryland State Education Association has begun a campaign called, “Less Testing, More Learning” (MSEA). An MSEA-sponsored forum addressed concerns about the overuse of standardized testing in Maryland schools (Maryland Reporter).

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Weekly News Roundup: State Superintendent Resigns, Comptroller Questions Contract with Pearson

State Superintendent Resigns: Lillian Lowery announced on Friday that she is resigning from her job as Maryland schools superintendent. She will take a job as CEO of an education non-profit in Columbus, Ohio. Deputy Superintendent Jack Smith will complete her term, which ends next July. The twelve-member State Board of Education is responsible for hiring a new superintendent. (Baltimore Sun)

Teen Murder Suspect: Police have taken 17-year-old Chet Markland Jarrett, Jr. into custody and charged him with the murder of Jajuan McCrae (WTOP). McCrae, also 17, was a rising senior at DuVal High School. McCrae wanted to study business in college and was described by his aunt as “well-mannered, always happy” (Washington Post).

Cell Towers: Milestone Communications continues to construct cell towers on school grounds, and some parents are concerned about potential health risks. (Sentinel)

First Day of School:  English learners at Prince George’s County’s new International Schools are excited about the new opportunity (WUSA 9). CEO Kevin Maxwell talks about a smooth first day, but admits that bus schedules can sometimes be a problem at the beginning of the year. The increase in enrollment — now more than 129,000 students — is a good sign for the school system (WTOP). All schools were ready to open on the first day except Thomas Stone Elementary, which was closed due to a water main break (WJLA).

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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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PGCPS Administration Suspends MUST Exams for Coming School Year

Teachers who have complained about too much standardized testing received a welcome announcement today. In a memorandum dated June 23, Deputy Superintendent Shawn Joseph announced that students would no longer be required to take Mandatory Unit Systemic 100_3401Tests (MUST) assessments. (See the full memorandum at the end of the post.)

Previously, both reading and mathematics MUST exams were administered at least twice during the school year to students, beginning in third grade and continuing through high school. (See one local middle school’s testing calendar here.) The recommendation to eliminate MUST tests came from the Assessment Cross-Functional Team, a team that was established by PGCPS to find ways to  reduce the amount of county-mandated standardized testing.

This announcement comes on the heels of last month’s decision by the PARCC Governing Board to reduce test time and consolidate testing windows. In the last legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly approved a commission to review Maryland’s standardized testing system.

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