Second Grade Testing
- To: ARN Listserv <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: Second Grade Testing
- From: Sue Allison <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 05 Jun 2003 19:59:09 -0400
George Sheridan wrote... I need information about standardized testing of second graders (seven-year-olds). Apparently the Washington Post thinks second grade testing is a big deal. From what I've heard - the state DOE in MD no longer mandates the CTBS testing starting this year -but some counties are hanging on to it - picking up the tab themselves...
Mr. Weast's Scores
Thursday, June 5, 2003; Page A32
IT WASN'T HARD to fathom the fanfare with which the Montgomery County school system last week rolled out the latest standardized test results for its second-graders. Though the scores showed no improvement from previous years in four out of five categories, one noticeable jump, in math computation, turned up in every demographic group. More significant for Superintendent Jerry D. Weast was a significant increase in the scores of students at 17 schools singled out for special attention three years ago in a high-profile attempt to narrow the achievement gap between Montgomery's rich and poor students. Their scores rose in four out of five categories, and by comparison with the national median improved from 7 percentage points in reading to 18 points in mathematic computation. One year's results don't vindicate any instructional program. But, as Mr. Weast put it, these scores suggest "a reasonably promising start."
The progress comes at an opportune moment for Mr. Weast, who since arriving in Montgomery nearly four years ago has made improving the results of poor and minority students his highest priority. He has had unwavering backing from the County Council, which has pumped up the school system's budget by more than a quarter; this year, despite declining revenues, it chose to raise taxes rather than cut back Mr. Weast's new programs. Two years ago the council gave Mr. Weast a four-year extension on his original contract, which would have expired this summer, and made him one of the best-paid superintendents in the nation. But up until now there has been little evidence that the schools are improving by the measure by which Mr. Weast chose to be judged. SAT scores of African American students at Montgomery high schools, for example, declined in each of the first three years of Mr. Weast's tenure.
The importance of the latest results is that they come from the very students on whom Mr. Weast has focused his attention and resources. In 2000 all-day kindergarten was added at the county's 17 poorest elementary schools; it has since been started at 39 other low-income schools. The initiative also included smaller class sizes, more teacher training and a sharper focus on reading and math. This year the first children to enter the new program reached the second grade, where the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills is routinely given; it was their scores that leaped upward. The improvement didn't happen in every subject, or at every school: Nine out of 17 schools showed no significant progress in reading from the best scores of the previous two years, for example. Yet the overall gains are impressive. With both Montgomery County and the state facing a grim budget outlook for the next couple of years, Mr. Weast's challenge will be sustaining that success without additional resources -- and figuring out how to spread it beyond the second grade.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
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