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Improving student achievement is PGCPS goal as new school year begins

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Published on: Wednesday, September 04, 2013

By Alexis A. Goring

Backpacks have been purchased and filled with school supplies. Parents have immersed their children into a set routine. And, teachers have said goodbye to their cherished summer vacation.

Prince George’s County students and educators are back in the classroom following an Aug. 19 start to a school year with a new CEO at the school system’s helm and a restructured Board of Education.

“We definitely want to continue to focus on the great things that have been happening in our district,” said Monique Whittington Davis, the newly hired deputy superintendent for Prince George’s County Public Schools.

School administrators plan to “increase a high level of student achievement” to ensure graduating students are college- and career-ready, Davis said.

“Making sure that we just establish great relationships all around our county from the parent/teacher relationship to the parent/bus driver relationship to the administrator/teacher relationship,” Davis said, “because all of those relationships are going to help our students succeed.”

Prince George’s County Public Schools students showed progress toward proficiency goals on the Maryland School Assessment science exam last school year. Fifth- and eighth-grade students take the MSA science exam each year. Fifth-grade students’ scores increased 6 percent since 2008, rising to 55.3 percent proficiency in 2013. Students in the eighth-grade have increased scores 18.3 percentage points to 54.3 percent.

“We are really impressed with the progress our eighth-graders are making in science,” PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell said. “Teachers and principals are focused on ensuring coursework is aligned to the new Common Core State Standards, and teachers are receiving the professional development opportunities they need to be the best they can be. This is especially important as students prepare for high-tech careers and work in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Students from 165 elementary and middle schools in Prince George’s County took the MSA science test, and 79 schools reported an increase in the proficiency of students.

Also, 32 schools made double-digit gains from 2012 to 2013. The following schools made gains of at least 20 percent: Lewisdale Elementary School, Thomas Johnson Middle School, District Heights Elementary School, Barack Obama Elementary School and Judith P. Hoyer Montessori.

Prince George’s County’s school system is a statewide leader in online testing. In the spring, 84.6 percent of test takers in the fifth grade and 92.83 percent of test takers in the eighth grade participated in online testing. Educators are expecting this number to increase in 2014 as all schools press toward the goal of offering online testing during the MSA science exam in 2014.

The school system is one of the largest in Maryland and has approximately 124,000 students, according to the school system’s communications office.

Since the school year started, Davis has visited 15 schools and plans to continue meeting with students and staff. She hopes to partner with educators to create an “atmosphere of excellence and achievement” throughout the school system, she said.

Prince George’s County schools hired approximately 650 new teachers. All Maryland teachers have transitioned to Common Core State Standards, which were implemented last school year. The transition to these new lesson plans will be completed this school year.

“I think that we want to take a look at our educational programs and meeting the needs of all our students because there is a goal to make sure that those that are choosing not to send their children to public schools that we can definitely lure them back,” Davis said. “And we can do that through our educational programs.”

Some Prince George’s County schools have new or renovated buildings. Oxon Hill High School and Avalon Elementary School have new buildings, and Doswell E. Brooks Elementary School has been renovated.

College Park Academy Public Charter opened its doors at 7501 Adelphi Road in Hyattsville.

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