Wicomico students show MSA testing declines

Wicomico County’s public school third- through eighth-graders showed scoring declines in the final installment of the much-maligned Maryland School Assessment tests.

The scores, which were made public last week by the State Department of Education, were based on spring exams given to all Maryland students in grades 3 through 8. The so-called MSA tests are part of the federal requirement of annual student testing for accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Wicomico’s students weren’t the only ones who showed declines: After more than a decade of steady gains on the MSA, scores for Maryland students declined in math and reading.

The results are available online at www.mdreportcard.org. On the website, users can easily compare schools, grades, counties and performance within various demographics.

Home reports showing each Wicomico student’s performance on the MSA will be mailed to parents and guardians this summer. No specific student results will be available.

According to state school officials, the declines are attributable to a mismatch between the MSA and the new Maryland College and Career Ready Standards.

These standards tie in with the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments that will be given to all students beginning in spring 2015.

The 2014 MSA scores show that Wicomico is experiencing some of the same issues as the rest of the state as a result of the mismatch between the MSA tests and the curriculum:

–Wicomico students in Grades 3-8 declined in the percent proficient/advanced on the 2014 Reading MSA.

–The percent proficient/advanced on the 2014 Math MSA declined in grades 3-8.

–Significant achievement gaps continue at all grade levels in both subjects between African American/White, FARM/Non-FARM, and Special Education/Non-Special Education students.

–A significant gender gap continued on the Reading and Math MSA in grades 3-8, with females consistently outperforming males.

Wicomico schools Superintendent John Frederickson warned that the 2014 MSA Data “must be interpreted with extreme caution.”

“The sample of scores is incomplete since students of differing levels participated in the PARCC pilot, and were not included in MSA results,” Frederickson said in a statement. “In addition, instruction has shifted away from the standards measured by the MSA and toward the new Maryland College and Career Ready Standards, with some skills — in math, for instance — no longer taught in the grade at which MSA tests.

When comparing Wicomico’s performance to neighboring counties, based on the posted test scores Wicomico test-takers failed to match those in Worcester County. Wicomico students seemed to perform slightly better than those in Somerset.

Complete breakdowns and comparison data are available at www.mdreportcard.org.

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