Maryland test results show ‘widened’ achievement gaps, especially in math


Most Maryland students of color and economically disadvantaged students are still trailing their White and more affluent peers in recovering academically from learning loss seen during the pandemic, according to deeper look at state assessment results released this week.

The state tests, known as the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP), were taken by students in spring 2022. Initial results showed Maryland’s students followed a national trend of students reaching pre-pandemic levels in English language arts, but lagging in mathematics.

Data from the spring test was the first report of a full statewide assessment since students have had months of in-person instruction and learning recovery efforts.

The targeted test data released this week provided breakdowns by school district and student demographic.

Maryland education officials tracked students by grade cohort between the third to eighth grades to understand how a class of students’ academic performance has developed over time. Grade cohorts have shown a 4 to 5 percentage-point increase in English language arts performance since the third grade, but math proficiency has decreased by roughly 24 to 26 percentage points since the third grade — with some of those declines starting before the pandemic.

“We have a lot of work to do in math; we have a lot of work to do period,” State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said during a state board meeting Tuesday. “Even within these numbers, there’s the achievement gap that has widened.”

Maryland assessments show students are falling behind in mathematics

Overall, 22 percent of all third to eighth grade Maryland students scored on a proficient level in mathematics for the 2021-22 school year, which was 11 percentage points lower than the 2018-19 school year, before the pandemic, when 33 percent of students scored proficient. Ten percent of Black students and 11 percent of Hispanic/Latino students were proficient in math — which were both declines compared to the 2018-19 school year. Meanwhile, 36 percent of White students scored proficient, and 53 percent of Asian students scored proficient in math.

Further breakdowns in those grade levels showed that 6 percent of English learners, 6 percent of students with disabilities and 9 percent of students on free and reduced lunch scored proficient.

Math results from each of Maryland’s 24 school districts vary from a low of 7 percent of Baltimore City schools students and a high of 38 percent of Carroll County schools students scoring proficient. Right outside of D.C., Montgomery County schools had 31 percent of students and Prince George’s County schools had 10 percent of students who scored proficient.

English language arts scores for the third to eighth grades were higher. Roughly 44 percent of all Maryland students scored proficient — which was the same percentage as the 2018-19 school year. Thirty-one percent Black students scored proficient, which was a 3 percentage point increase from the 2018-19 school year. Hispanic/Latino students’ results nearly reached pre-pandemic levels, with 29 percent of students scoring proficient during the 2021-22 school year compared to 30 percent of students during the 2018-19 school year. Fifty-nine percent of White students scored proficient, and 73 percent of Asian students reached that mark.

Thirteen percent of English learners, 26 percent of students on free and reduced lunch and 11 percent of students with disabilities scored proficient.

Worcester County schools had the highest percentage of third-to-eighth grade students scoring proficient in English language arts, with 64 percent. Baltimore City schools had the lowest with 21 percent. The school system has plans to use roughly half of the $443 million it received in the latest round of federal coronavirus relief funds to address learning loss, most of which will take the form of tutoring, officials previously to The Washington Post.

Montgomery County Public Schools had 53 percent of students, and Prince George’s County had 34 percent of students, who scored proficient.

Scores fall coast to coast, especially in math, under pandemic’s toll

However, the data did show some students scoring very close to proficient, Choudhury said. About 49 percent of fifth graders scored as “developing learners,” the level just below proficient, he said. The state defines those students as ones who “demonstrate partial proficiency” and are in need of additional academic support. That level is above students who are considered “beginning learners,” who are students in need of substantial academic support that don’t show proficiency.

“It is not as gloomy as you think it is and that’s very important,” Choudhury said. “We also need to give credit to our schools with how much they are moving with a student population that is majority-minority and concentrated poverty increasing as well.”

About 33 percent of Maryland’s roughly 890,000 public school students are Black, 33 percent are White, 22 percent are Hispanic/Latino and 7 percent are Asian. About 36 percent of students in the state are considered economically disadvantaged.

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