By Zach Sparks
Parents of students in Anne Arundel County Public Schools can now see their child’s school ranked in the same way as restaurants and hotels: by a five-star rating.
The new Maryland School Report Card, released in December, evaluated schools statewide on a variety of factors: attendance, having a well-rounded curriculum, growth on English and math state assessments, and progress of English language learners.
The new grading metric is part of Maryland’s accountability system under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), legislation signed in 2015. Over an 18-month period, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, community leaders, advocacy groups and other stakeholders around Maryland drafted the plan, which was adopted by the U.S. Department of Education in early 2018.
ESSA succeeded the No Child Left Behind Act in governing state school improvement plans.
Jason Dykstra, executive director of the instructional data division for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, explained the ratings at a December Board of Education meeting.
“The biggest difference with this new accountability plan is that the old one was based solely on test scores and whether or not students passed state assessments,” Dykstra said. “That was really, essentially, it.”
The new plan, he said, “will show a much more balanced approach to how Maryland’s accountability program works.”
Under the new ratings, only five county schools received five stars, and none of those are located in Pasadena. Schools with four stars included Chesapeake and Northeast high schools, Chesapeake Bay Middle School and Pasadena Elementary.
How did Anne Arundel compare to other counties? Pasadena’s four-star schools represented a broad range, from Chesapeake High in the 72nd percentile to Pasadena Elementary in the 47th percentile. Three-star schools peaked at the 45th percentile for George Fox Middle, 24th for Bodkin Elementary and 23rd for Riviera Beach Elementary, and went as low as the 13th percentile for Lake Shore and Solley elementary schools. The two-star schools, High Point and Jacobsville, were just behind in the 11th percentile.
All Anne Arundel County elementary schools lost 15 points in two categories: Access to a Well-Rounded Curriculum and Credit for a Well-Rounded Curriculum. The AACPS website said that when the indicators were established, the school system had no mechanism to track which fifth-graders experienced all health standards in different curriculums.
Given the inconsistency of the data, Superintendent George Arlotto decided not to report any fifth-grade student as having met standards in these two categories. The situation was addressed, and AACPS can now track all fifth-grade students and their access to the health curriculum.
While Arlotto said he expects each elementary school to earn an additional star next year, Board of Education president Julie Hummer noted that 14 of the 24 Maryland districts had the same issue with health programs, so the added points might not give Anne Arundel elementary schools a big boost over other schools next year.
One thing is for sure: the new Maryland Report Card shows where students are excelling and where improvement is needed.
“This is a significant new tool for our county and our state to use in terms of measuring the performance of schools,” Arlotto said in a statement. “We, along with our schools, are eager to use this baseline data as another measure in the context of our Strategic Plan, which remains our guiding force to help every single student achieve his or her full potential.”
To learn more or to see an individual school’s grades, visit www.mdreportcard.org.
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