As school gets set to begin on Monday, we return with the second in our series of Maryland School Assessment performance maps for Prince George's County. This time, we take a look at the county's middle schools.
This map shows the combined performance on MSA math and reading tests for Prince George's County middle schools.
When compared with our previous elementary school map, it seems as if Prince George's County's middle schools are faring far worse off than the elementary schools.
The average combined reading and math proficiency rate for seventh and eighth graders in Prince George's County last year was only 64 percent, an average driven downward by math proficiency rates which hover in the mid 50s.
Prince George's County is not unique here. Statewide, MSA proficiency rates have a tendency to drop sharply among the middle school grade bands. Across Maryland, the combined reading and math proficiency rate for seventh and eighth graders was 76 percent last year, down sharply from the average 85 percent proficiency rate for third, fourth and fifth graders.
Duane Arbogast, acting deputy superintendent of academics for Prince George's County Public Schools, said that the middle school testing decline, both in Prince George's County and across the state, are caused by an MSA math test which becomes exponentially more complex in the middle school grade bands.
"The demands of the test shift pretty significantly by the eighth grade. Proficiency in elementary school is related to strong foundational work, but proficiency in middle school is related to proficiency in skills, and the difficulty level of the tests increases faster than the grade band," said Arbogast in an interview.
"At first glance, you could say well wait a minute, are we assuming that elementary and middle school tests are equated, that there is a linkage between the two?" Said Arbogast. "The answer is no…they are not related. You can't say that the teaching got worse or the kids got dumber because it the nature of the tests."
This map does not show the test results of all middle school students or schools in Prince George's County. Only those schools with a defined attendance area set by the Prince George's County Board of Education are shown on the map. And while fifth graders do attend some of the county's middle schools, this map does not include the performance of sixth grade students enrolled in elementary schools throughout the county. Sixth grade MSA scores are otherwise included in the state's "middle school" cohort.
As we noted with our elementary school MSA map, the test scores in the map are for the school as a whole and include the test performance of non-resident students in attendance and exclude resident students attending other schools, according to Johndel Jones-Brown, Director of the Prince George's County Public Schools Department of Pupil Accounting and School Boundaries office.
Jones-Brown also stressed that the school district boundaries depicted on this map be used as a reference tool only. Parents, students and residents curious to know within which school attendance area they live can verify that through the Pupil Accounting and School Boundaries office's online school finder or by calling the office directly at (301) 952-6300.