Despite the Prince George's County schools' effort to increase basic reading and math skills for students in grades three, five, seven and nine, there has been no substantial shift in student achievement levels, according to a report released by the school system last week. The county school system reported that students who took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills remain slightly below the Maryland state average for another year in a row.
Prince George's County Superintendent of Schools, Edward J. Feeney said. "Our students are holding their own, but we have not begun to see additional improvement."
Feeney said the system only this fall redesigned its junior high school curriculum and the effects of the changes should be apparent by next year, at least in the seventh grade test results.
Scores for the tests given last spring showed little changes in most grades tested, but in the ninth grade, scores in vocabulary, reading and language slipped by one month in terms of grade equivalency. In mathematics they slipped by two months.
Feeney, who called the ninth grade scores "less than we would expect" said that part of the problem is related to the fact that more than 20 per cent of the students who took the test last spring had spent less than two years in the county school system. He said that figures for grades three, five and seven were comparable, however, and that principals and teachers were saying that many students with "various backgrounds" are "weak in foundation skills."
Dr. Louise Waynant, coordinating director of instruction, said the school system is currently trying to cope with the problem of student deficiencies in basic skills such as reading and math by continuing basic skill training past the elementary school level into junior high school.
"We feel that if we are going to continue to meet the needs of students with deficiencies in reading skills or math skills beyond the sixth grade that we are going to have to continue our specialized training." Waynant said.
Waynant added that the school system has begun a program to revitalize basic math and reading training from the first grade through the ninth. She said the program involves development of basic math and reading text books and instruction techniques so that teachers can ensure that the student has basic skills before moving on to more advanced learning. She said the basic skills program began this year in grades one through three and will be included in additional grades each year in the future.
Waynant said also basic skill review units will be used in county classrooms. "These will be reviews of skills that should have been taught in the classroom anyway," Waynant said.
She said she believes the review will make a difference in test scores by giving students a chance to review material they have learned previously with their teachers.
The school system has also begun grouping students with feficit skills into achievement levels and providing them with extra or intensive work, while students capable of more advanced work are kept challenged, a school spokesman said.
The groupings, according to the school officials, are to be reevaluated every nine weeks so students who have benefitted from the extra help are not held back.