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Most Prince George’s students scoring below grade level on district tests

Students arrive for the first day of school at Eleanor Roosevelt High School on Aug. 29, 2022 in Greenbelt, MD. (Michael A. McCoy/For The Washington Post)

Academic data released this week from Prince George’s County Public Schools showed most students in the county are testing below grade level and not meeting expectations in math and English/language arts.

In a presentation to the county’s school board, administrators reviewed test scores from last school year on the district’s exams — called benchmark assessments. The data, showing overall results along with grade-level scores, show that although students made slight improvements from the 2020-2021 school year, less than 25 percent were “meeting expectations” in reading and language arts across grade levels for the first assessment. Math scores were lower, with fewer than 10 percent of students meeting expectations on those tests.

Two benchmark assessments were given in the fall and winter, and a third optional assessment for schools was given in the spring. Students in third through 12th grades were given the tests.

Results for the third optional benchmark were not released during the board meeting.

Prince George’s scores follow last week’s release of test scores for D.C. students. Those results showed students’ math and reading scores dropped to the lowest levels in five years. Researchers estimate it could take until 2027 to catch students in the District up to pre-pandemic levels.

The local results mirror national scores released earlier this month for elementary school students whose math and reading scores plunged to their lowest levels in decades.

Prince George’s administrators said the school system results weren’t a complete picture of how students were faring academically, since the state education department is reviewing how it defines reading and math proficiency.

They said that the scores improved compared with the 2020-21 school year. Third- to fifth-graders had an increase of 5.3 percentage points in reading and language arts, for example. In math, kindergartners and fifth graders showed an 8 percentage-point increase. (The school system did not share growth rates from kindergarten to second grade for reading and language arts.)

Outside of the benchmark scores, administrators separately shared students’ final academic grades to provide a glimpse of student performance. Grades have improved since the beginning of the pandemic, administrators said. Those results showed that 36 percent of second-graders received an A in math, and 39 percent of second-graders received an A in reading and language arts. Of all high-schoolers, 18 percent received an A in high school math and 21 percent received an A in reading and language arts.

Pamela Boozer-Strother (District 3) emphasized the toll virtual learning took on students, adding that “nothing has been typical” for most students.

“Parents painfully feel this when you look at this … and you see the results, that is not our children,” Boozer-Strother said. “We know our children are achieving more than this number.”

For the county’s assessments, school board members requested the data be categorized by student race, students who were a part of free- and reduced-price lunch programs, and students who were English-language learners. They also requested more information on how kindergartners performed on early reading assessments.

David Murray (District 1) asked for the school board to revisit the curriculums the school system is using.

“That impacts everything,” Murray said. “I hate to see our students potentially in a situation where they’re not achieving, just as a result of not being offered the best curriculums they possibly could.”

In addition to the school system’s own benchmark assessments, students also take the state’s standardized test, the Maryland Comprehensive Testing Program. Results for the state exam are expected to be released in January.

More on local education

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K-12 classrooms: The Montgomery County school system is revisiting safety training after a report of a student with a gun led to a campus lockdown. New safety protocols also are in the works in D.C. after a bus driver crashed a bus and was charged with a DUI. A settlement in a public records lawsuit reveals some of the emails submitted to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s education tip line.

On campus: The University of Maryland has pledged to expand aid for in-state students who have significant financial need. What the twists, turns and drops of roller coasters are teaching Johns Hopkins University students about engineering.