The percentage of county middle school students earning passing scores on the Maryland School Assessment reading tests administered in the 2012-2013 school year rose in all seven racial and ethnic student groups, while elementary reading and elementary and middle school math passing rates fell, according to data released by the Maryland State Department of Education today.

Overall, 87.7 percent of middle school students scored proficient or advanced in reading, an increase of 2.0 percentage points over the previous year. Among racial and ethnic student groups, Asian students showed the biggest gains with a 4.1 percentage point increase, followed by students of two or more races (3.8 points), Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students (3.7 points), and African-American students (3.1 points).

Among middle school students receiving special services, Limited English Proficient students posted the biggest reading gains, a 12-point increase.

The drop in countywide elementary passing rates (0.7 points) in reading and passing rates in math at both the elementary (2.1 points) and middle school (7.2 points) levels mirrors the trend across the state. Superintendent Kevin Maxwell attributed the drops primarily to two factors: the misalignment between the MSA exams and new Common Core State Standards required to be implemented in AACPS, and the elimination of the Modified MSA (MOD MSA) for some students with disabilities.

“School system leaders across the state have been looking at these factors for more than a year, and we are seeing some of the impact of them in these scores,” Dr. Maxwell said. “Any time there is a shift in curriculum or assessment and they don’t occur in tandem, as is the case here, the probability of these types of drops increases. I firmly believe that once the transition to Common Core is fully implemented that our passing rates, as well as those across the state, will once again increase.”

Across Anne Arundel County, nearly 400 students took MOD MSA assessments in both reading and math in the 2011-2012 school year, and took the general assessments administered to all other students in the 2012-2013 school year. Some students who had passed (scored proficient or advanced) the MOD MSA in reading and/or math in 2011-2012 did not pass (scored basic) the general assessment in 2012-2013.

Overall, passing rates in Anne Arundel County continue to surpass those in Maryland at both levels and in both subjects, according to the data released today. The gap is the biggest in elementary math, where 91.1 percent of county students passed the MSA compared to 83.9 percent across the state. County students ranked 5.4 points higher in passing rates in elementary reading (91.8 percent vs. 86.4 percent), 4.3 points higher in middle school reading (87.7 percent vs. 83.4 percent), and 1.6 points higher in middle school math (73.8 percent vs. 72.2 percent).

School systems across the state will continue the transition to the Common Core State Standards in the coming year, with a new assessment, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC) aligned to the standards set to be fully implemented in 2014-2015.

“I don’t for a single second believe that the quality of our instruction or the abilities of our students have waned over the last year,” Dr. Maxwell said. “Common Core has brought about a more rigorous curriculum that requires schools to adjust instruction. The next step is to implement an assessment that tests for the same content and rigor, which will happen over the next two years.”

More information about countywide performance can be found in the tables linked to this release. Additional information about school-specific performance can be found at www.mdreportcard.org.

2013 AACPS Elementary and Middle School MSA data