In middle schools, the passing rate for the county was about 85 percent, up about three points over four years, and three-tenths of a percent from last year.
“Five or six years ago, we saw big jumps,” said Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig. But after proficiency rates climbed past 80 percent, progress started to level off. “Obviously, you want to continue to see everything point up,” he said, but it’s gotten harder.
In Prince George’s, there have been bigger gains in the passing rate — from 75 percent in 2008 to 81 percent this year in elementary grades, and from 60 percent to 68 percent in middle schools. But the growth since last year was, like Montgomery’s, small. At the elementary level, the gain was less than half a percentage point.
The Post’s analysis combined passing rates for reading and math. It showed the statewide average passing rate was 88 percent at the elementary level (grades 3, 4 and 5) and 79 percent at the middle level (grades 6, 7 and 8).
Schools remain under pressure to show improvement, even as they are preparing for new standardized tests aligned to national standards expected to roll out in the 2013-2014 school year. Seven thousand teachers across the state are undergoing training this summer on the standards. Montgomery elementary teachers are already teaching a new curriculum to students in the early grades.
States report scores annually under the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which set a controversial target that all children should pass grade-level tests by 2014. But that ambitious benchmark put an increasing number of schools on a path to failure. By last year, 44 percent of all elementary and middle schools across the state fell short of the testing goals.
This year, Maryland and 25 other states, including Virginia, received a federal waiver from the 2014 expectation.
Under the waiver, annual test scores will continue to be reported. But the way schools are evaluated has changed. There won’t be labels of “adequate yearly progress,” or of failing to meet AYP.
Maryland’s new system expects continuous improvement, but not perfection. Each school must be on track to cut its portion of non-proficient students in half by 2017 — overall and among groups of students, based on race, ethnicity, poverty and disability status. Schools designated as failing no longer are required to offer extra tutoring services or transfers for students to other schools.
Statewide, 85 percent of schools met targets called “annual measurable objectives.” Prince George’s officials said 63 percent of their elementary and middle schools met the AMO targets. Montgomery officials released no comparable rate Tuesday.