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Statistics show improvements in Prince George's County student achievement

Middle school reading scores slip; Board of Education discusses solutions

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Published on: Wednesday, October 03, 2012

By Amber Larkins

Prince George’s County Board of Education discussed strides in student achievement during its meeting Sept. 20.

Gladys Whitehead, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Prince George’s County Public Schools, presented student achievement statistics to the board. Most of the data showed gains of a couple percentage points in areas such as college readiness, AP scores of 3 or higher, and high school assessments.

Whitehead explained the new performance targets and accountability program.“Each school is measured against itself in achievement,” Whitehead said.

Each school begins with a baseline number of achievement, which is subtracted from 100 and divided by two to get the target percentage increase for six years from now. This number is divided by six to get the yearly increase target.

“We will be examining our subgroups. That’s where we can measure the true increase in achievement,” Whitehead said.

The discussion became focused on what is currently being done to increase middle school achievement.

“Ninth grade is the most problematic grade across the country,” said Duane Arbogast, chief academic officer of PGCPS.

Board of Education Member Amber Waller, District 3, noted a decrease in middle school reading scores and asked Whitehead what is being done to turn those scores around.

The progress of middle school students is followed through high school, and school officials are trying to increase the rigor and variety of readings available for middle school students, Whitehead said.

“If they fail two classes then we track their progress,” Whitehead said.

Students who fail must attend summer school, which costs money.

Board Member Carolyn Boston, District 6, expressed concerns that some subgroups — such as those with individualized education programs, in special education, and on farms — show a decline in academic performance rather than earning better scores.

“Some of these people will not be able to pay the cost of summer school,” said Boston, emphasizing that these were the people who needed assistance most.

“We have a variety of programs. We do offer them waivers. We have several grant programs that sponsor specific populations. We’re trying many different programs,” Whitehead said.

There are other possibilities, including after school MSA reading and math enrichment, but sometimes even that it is not enough, Whitehead said.

“We really don’t want 16-year-olds in eighth grade,” Arbogast said.

The school day has been extended for middle school, and each middle school student has an individual enrichment period to do homework or to work on MSA achievement, Arbogast said.

“We’re managing expectations around students,” Board Chair Verjeana Jacobs said in her closing remarks.

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