Frederick County was one of 13 counties in the state that saw none of its public schools receive below a three-star rating on the 2019 Maryland school report cards.
The ratings and other data, which were released Tuesday, assess the quality of all 1,400 public schools in the state. Scores are given based on factors such as achievement on state tests, graduation rates and the results of surveys taken by students and teachers.
Frederick County had eight schools receive three-star ratings, 37 schools receive four-star ratings and 16 schools receive five-star ratings.
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Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Terry Alban said in an email that she appreciates the efforts of students and staff to produce such high scores.
“As a district, we continuously perform in the top quartile in the state. To achieve three stars or above in every school is commendable,” Alban said.
Some of the highest-scoring schools at each level were Centerville Elementary School, Urbana Middle School and Middletown High School. Each received five stars and had high academic proficiency ratings.
This is the second year of the star-rating system, which came into effect due to a requirement set by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act in 2015. Many other states have similar rating systems to Maryland’s that give either a star rating or letter grade.
State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said in a statement that she hopes the report cards will help provide transparency and critical information to all public school stakeholders.
“We hope this will help everyone gain a better understanding of how each school is doing, and provide inspiration about how we can work together to make our schools the best they can be for all students,” Salmon said.
Although Frederick had a high number of five-star schools, not one middle school in the county received the top score. Four of the county’s 13 middle schools received three stars, and the rest received four.
When asked if this was cause for concern, Alban said that academic performance at the middle school level continues to be a focus and that while there were no five-star ratings, FCPS middle schools did improve their performance overall compared with others in the state.
The lowest-scoring school in the district was Butterfly Ridge Elementary. The school on the west side of Frederick received three stars, but ranked only in the 13th percentile compared with other elementary schools across Maryland.
Additionally, the school reported only 16 percent proficiency in math and 23 percent proficiency in English Language Arts.
Alban said this did not come as a surprise as much of the data had previously been reported and that she and staff have been working with school administrators for several months to develop improvement plans.
“Central leaders have identified Comprehensive Improvement Plans for our schools that we recognize need to significantly improve their academic performance. ... Butterfly Ridge has been identified as one of those schools,” Alban said, adding that there is “no simple answer” for improving academic performance.
“The root cause will vary from school to school and therefore, the approach to improve will be similar but different at each school,” she said.
When asked how she feels, overall, about the star rating system Alban said she has “never been a fan” of trying to describe the performance of a school so simplistically and that she feels the system puts more focus on rankings than anything else.
“[The rating] is easily misinterpreted because it appears so simple and yet it is so complex,” Alban said. “The reason one school gets four stars and one school gets five stars varies from school to school depending on the indicators and how the comparisons are done.”
However, the complexity of the indicators is good, said Alban, because it means the ratings are derived from multiple measures instead of something simple and standardized like test scores. This complex data can then be used effectively by the school system.
“This report card provides a lot of valuable information that our schools can unpack to determine the best next steps,” Alban said.
She also encouraged parents and students to follow FCPS and fully unpack the data for their school instead of just looking at the star rating.
“I would remind parents that the report card cannot tell us everything about a school, so be cautious in how you interpret the star ratings,” Alban said. “The star ratings are the ‘tip of the iceberg.’”