Maryland students made modest progress on the state’s standardized tests for grades three through eight but lost ground on high school exams, according to data released Tuesday.

Overall, students continued to show a statewide passing rate below 50 percent during the 2017-18 school year.

Nearly 42 percent of students demonstrated proficiency in English language arts on elementary and middle school exams in Maryland, and 34 percent reached that mark in math. Both numbers improved by about a percentage point compared with those from a year earlier.

“Our schools and our teachers and our administrators are making some important efforts to improve performance all across the state, but we recognize we have more work to do,” said Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon.

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Salmon and others noted that scores for black and Hispanic students were up in a number of areas, but achievement gaps remained largely unchanged, with white and Asian students continuing to fare significantly better.

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The mixed picture extended to the Washington suburbs, where officials in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties saw gains on English tests for students in elementary and middle schools but also saw scores dip in English 10 and Algebra 1.

The decline on the two high school exams appeared to be related to a spike in the number of test takers, according to state officials. Thousands of students statewide retook the tests in 2018 amid a new requirement for high school graduation.

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Across Maryland, English 10 scores dropped by nearly seven points, with 42 percent passing, and Algebra 1 showed a five-point dip, to 31 percent.

Derek Turner, spokesman for the Montgomery County school system, said the district regarded the new state data as only one measure of student progress. Educators also pay close attention to the district assessments and classroom work.

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“One test doesn’t define a student’s college or career readiness,” he said.

In Montgomery, scores were better than the state average at almost every grade. English scores ranged from 48 to 54 percent in elementary and middle school.

Math scores were mostly lower than those in English — and wide-ranging. More than 90 percent passed the exam in geometry, while less than 5 percent did so in math 8. In Montgomery, math 8 is taken by students who struggle the most, Turner said.

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He said the district’s internal analysis of three years of data found English scores climbed more than five points and math scores nearly 11 points in elementary grades.

In Prince George’s County, interim chief executive Monica Goldson noted strides in English and echoed the sentiment that the scores are “one of many sets of indicators” of student achievement.

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A district analysis showed that 28 percent of students in third through fifth grades met English benchmarks, as did 31 percent of middle school students. Both numbers were up about two points compared with last year’s.

Officials cited particular progress among English language learners in elementary grades.

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In math, results were flat. About 20 percent of students were proficient in the subject in elementary grades and 13 percent in middle school.

“We will continue to focus on supporting teachers and students, while engaging parents to prepare children for success after high school,” Goldson said in a statement.

Results were released at a meeting Tuesday of the Maryland State Board of Education, where several members voiced concern about lagging scores among children of color.

“We just have to do better than this,” member Jean C. Halle said.

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Board member Vermelle Greene said change is needed. “What we really need to do — and we’re not going to be able to do it today or this year or whatever — but we have to break the mold,” she said. “We can’t keep doing the same thing the same way because it’s not helping our children, our black and brown children especially.”

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Maryland’s standardized tests — known as PARCC exams, for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — are scored on a 5-point scale. Scores of 4 or 5 show students have met or exceeded expectations.

The tests were first given in 2015, as Maryland moved to Common Core state standards, which were designed to set a high bar for what students should learn in states across the nation.

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