Larry Schlude, a mathematics teacher for 16 years at Suitland High School, said that although a steady stream of students enter his Prince George's school lacking basic math skills, figures released yesterday show that test scores had "bottomed out."
Schlude was reacting to county ninth graders' scores on state functional math tests, which were released along with the students' functional reading test and citizenship test scores. Countywide, half the ninth graders passed the citizenship test, and the schools scored above the state average in the reading results. But it was the math test that was most vexing to officials: 66 percent of the Prince George's ninth graders passed, an improvement over past years but still lower than the state average of 76 percent.
Schlude, math department head at Suitland, said he was pleased that the school's ninth graders had improved their passing rate on the test, but he conceded more work was needed because the school's average of 46 percent was one of the lowest in the county.
Schlude estimated that the scores have hit a low and are beginning to improve in part because students "can't help but be more cognizant that their careers are dependent upon learning mathematics."
Schlude said, "The frustration is that you can't begin to teach division until the student has learned the basic multiplication tables."
The countywide math scores improved over the fall of 1983 passing rate of 54 percent. Total figures for 1984 were not available, school officials said.
Results released yesterday showed that students in the county also made improvements on a state citizenship test and functional reading test.
"We're pleased that scores are improving, but we're not satisfied with them as a final product. There is much more that can be done," said Brian J. Porter, school spokesman.
All three tests are required by the state for graduation. The tests are given to all students in the ninth grade, and those who don't pass have two opportunities each school year to pass them, according to county officials.
Fifty percent of the county's ninth graders passed a citizenship test, which was given this spring for the first time as a graduation requirement. Statewide, 58 percent of ninth graders passed the test, which measures students' knowledge of constitutional government, rights and politics.
The test was given experimentally during the spring of 1984, when 38 percent of the county's students passed.
County ninth graders performed well on a functional reading test; 95.8 percent passed the test, compared with the state average 93.9 percent. The county figure was a 4 percent increase over fall of 1983 results.
Officials also released county attendance records with the test results to suggest that the attendance affects student performance.
"If a student's attitude is poor and the student doesn't attend school, their results on standarized tests and other school work are low," Porter said.
At Suitland High School for example, the attendance rate, at 82 percent, is the second poorest in the county and its scores on the functional math and reading scores are also among the lowest. Other schools with corresponding low attendance and test scores are Northwestern and Forestville High Schools.