Frederick County performed better than the state average and made meaningful progress in closing racial and ethnic gaps, according to test results measuring college and career readiness.
Frederick County students performed nearly 16 percentage points better than the state average in algebra on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test this past spring. The county outperformed the state average in nine of 14 tests.
Students in grades three through eight are tested in languages arts and math, and students in the 10th grade are tested in language arts and algebra 1.
Urbana High School in particular posted the highest math score for any high school in the state — with 71.2 percent proficiency.
“We are pleased with the performance and improvement from our students,” Deputy Superintendent Mike Markoe said Thursday. “We recognize there are areas for us to continue to work on. We also recognize this is just one measure of student success amongst many measures.”
PARCC results were released Tuesday afternoon to the State Board of Education, and largely were met with dismay. Less than half of all students tested for language arts and math scored a 4 or a 5, which are the target scores for proficiency.
The state has a graduation rate of about 87 percent, which means approximately one-third of students are graduating without being proficient in the test the state says determines college and career readiness.
Statewide, only 16.8 percent of students demonstrated proficiency in eighth-grade math, a drop of more than 5 percentage points.
While the county regressed in third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade math scores, it still beat state averages in six of seven tests. Frederick County had a 7 percentage point jump on the algebra 1 test, marking the largest improvement of any of the tests.
In English, the county saw improvement nearly across the board. The biggest jump came in 10th-grade language arts, and eighth-grade language arts was the only category to see a regression.
Schools in the Urbana area consistently perform better than the rest of the schools in the county. Of the top five schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels, 11 of them are in the Urbana area.
Centerville Elementary School had two of the only three groups to test with 80 percent proficiency. More than 85 percent of third-grade math students were proficient, and 81 percent of fifth-grade math students were proficient.
“We certainly look to [Urbana-area schools] as an example of best practices and they continue to be a leader in our district,” Markoe said. “We’re looking to mirror their practices and implement those around the county.”
A gap still exists between white and Asian students and black and Hispanic students. But the county made some progress in closing some of those gaps — particularly in seventh-, eighth- and 10th-grade language arts — while the state saw gaps increase.
While white students at the state level improved by 4 percentage points in algebra 1, black and Hispanic students regressed. Black and Hispanic students in Frederick County, however, closed the gap in algebra by more than 4 percentage points each.
Black students in Frederick County have also cut the performance gap from 12 percent to 7 percent in 10th-grade language arts.
“[Superintendent Terry] Alban sent a clear message that closing the achievement gap is our number one priority,” Markoe said. “We want to make it clear among our educators that all students will get the same opportunities and have access to a 21st-century education.”
Performance data from the county showed that when students took the test more than once, performance tended to increase substantially. The county improved performance in 12 of 14 tests, including an 8 percentage point spike in 10th-grade language arts.
Performance data is different than the accountability data, and the state reports only one test score per student. In performance data, if a student takes a test twice, both scores count.
The district still has several challenges ahead, namely an increasing standard to meet. The board plans to continue to raise the minimum proficiency score in the coming years. This means the county will need to meet an even higher bar than the one several students currently haven’t reached.
“We need to continue to have an intense focus on the standards,” Markoe said. “And we need to continue to emphasize access to rigorous courses for all students.”