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Most Prince George students score below grade level on district tests

Academic data released this week by Prince George’s County Public Schools showed that most students in the county are testing below grade level and not meeting expectations in math and English/language arts.

In a presentation to the county school board, administrators reviewed test scores from the previous school year in district examinations – called benchmark assessments. The data, showing overall results as well as grade-level scores, shows that although students made slight improvements from the 2020-2021 school year, less than 25% were “meeting expectations” in reading and language arts at all levels for the first assessment. Mathematics results were lower, with less than 10% of students meeting expectations on these tests.

Two baseline assessments were given in autumn and winter, and a third optional assessment for schools was given in the spring. The students from the third to the final passed the tests.

The results of the optional third benchmark were not released at the board meeting.

The Prince George scores follow the release last week of test results for DC students. These results showed that students’ math and reading scores fell to the lowest levels in five years. Researchers estimate it would take until 2027 to bring students in the district back to pre-pandemic levels.

The local results mirror national scores released earlier this month for elementary school students whose math and reading scores have plunged to their lowest levels in decades.

Prince George Administrators said the school system’s results aren’t a complete picture of how students are doing academically, since the state Department of Education reviews how it defines skills in reading and math.

They said the scores improved from the 2020-21 school year. Students in grades three through five saw a 5.3 percentage point increase in reading and language arts, for example. In math, kindergarten and fifth graders showed an increase of 8 percentage points. (The school system did not share K-2 growth rates for reading and language arts.)

Apart from the benchmark scores, administrators separately shared students’ final academic grades to provide insight into student performance. Ratings have improved since the pandemic began, administrators said. These results showed that 36% of second graders received A’s in math and 39% of second graders received A’s in reading and language arts. Of all high school students, 18% received an A in high school math and 21% received an A in reading and language arts.

Pamela Boozer-Strother (District 3) highlighted the impact of virtual learning on students, adding that “nothing has been typical” for most students.

“Parents painfully feel that when you watch this…and you see the results, they’re not our kids,” Boozer-Strother said. “We know our kids achieve more than that number.”

For county assessments, school board members asked for data to be categorized by student race, students who were in free and reduced-price lunch programs, and students who were learning English. They also asked for more information about how kindergarten students performed on early reading assessments.

David Murray (District 1) asked the school board to review the curriculum used by the school system.

“It impacts everything,” Murray said. “I hate to see our students potentially in a situation where they are not succeeding, simply because they are not being offered the best possible degree programs.”

In addition to the school system’s benchmark assessments, students also take the state’s standardized test, the Maryland Comprehensive Testing Program. The results of the state exam are expected to be released in January.