UPPER MARLBORO – Testing scores in the county are producing a dismal reputation for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), but school leaders say there is more to the story than poor testing performances and they are already trying to combat the problems. However, the county leadership does not mention the millions of dollars they are awarding themselves as bonus pay to the detriment of the county youth and the Prince George’s County citizenry.
All in all, it appears it’s all about the county CEO and his close friends who are milking the system as they bribe their way into the surroundings institutions in order to entrench themselves into power for personal gain. Yes! for personal gain and the county suffers under questionable leadership.
Student testing scores in Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT have fallen while scores in the first administered Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessment (PARCC) in the county are some of the lowest in the whole state of Maryland.
“PARCC is a new rigorous test, and with anything new there are challenges,” said Kevin Maxwell, Chief Executive Officer for PGCPS.
PARRC was first administered in the spring of 2015 after the state of Maryland chose the assessment as the new accountability program, replacing the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) in Reading and Math. The test is specifically aligned to Maryland’s college and career ready standards by requiring students to demonstrate critical thinking, problem solving, and clear writing. By taking PARCC, the students are assessed on how close they are to the standards on a scale of one to five, with five meaning the student exceed expectations. A score of four indicates a student is on track.
On the assessment, which looks at students in grades three through eight, only 25 percent of PGCPS students earned a level four or five in the literacy assessment. Statewide, just less than 40 percent of students scored a four or five. In math, less than 15 percent of county students scored a four or five. Statewide 30 percent reached a four or five.
“There is room for growth on the PARCC assessments,” Maxwell now says. “A low score does not mean a child is failing to learn. This is an opportunity for growth and fine tuning instruction, and that’s exactly what we plan to accomplish.”
The overall pass rate of AP tests in the county has also dropped. AP tests are scored on a scale of one to five as well, with a score of three through five considered passing. The overall percentage of students in PGCPS with a passing score from the tests in May was 25.8 percent, which is a 1.2 percent drop from 2014.
State-wide, 61 percent of Maryland AP students scored a three or higher in 2015, which was the same as 2014.
AP scores in math dropped from a 19.1 percent pass rate in 2014 to 15.8 percent in 2015. The average score on mathematics exams was 1.5. Passing rates also dropped in fine arts, foreign languages and social studies exams. The highest pass rate however, was in foreign languages with 72.9 percent.
Although most subjects saw a decrease in pass rates, both science and English language arts saw increases of 1.9 percent and .5 percent respectively.
Scores on the SAT also dipped countywide.
The average SAT composite score, which is complied from adding the scores of the math, writing and critical reading scores, was 1195 – a four point drop from 2014. The SAT is scored out of 2400 and the nationwide average is 1500. The average in Maryland was 1435, which was also a four-point drop from 2014.
While there was a decrease in passing of mathematics AP tests, the county on average increased SAT math scores. The math average increased from 394 in 2014 to 397 this year. Scores dropped in both writing and critical reading by less than five points.
Segun Eubanks, the chair of the county board of education, said the matter of test scores is extremely complicated.
“Now while these results clearly show that we have lots of works to do, we also need to unpack the data. That means we need to dig deeper to get the full story of what this information reveals, something our friends in the media rarely bother to do,” he said at the State of the School System Address last week.
Eubanks said when he looks at the data he sees a story of hope because the numbers show students in the county are performing better than students in similar situations.
“We know that’s not enough, but we know when we look at this data we see there are schools and programs and classrooms and teachers that are working to help student succeed everyday,” he said.
The school system is also already in the process of addressing the testing scores and ramping up an effort to hit testing from every angle as they prepare their students, not for the test, but in life skills and critical thinking.
This ideology, along with the school’s system strategic plan, was discussed in length at a board work session in September when the school staff and administrators discussed literacy in the school system. Literacy is the central part of the school system’s new strategic plan.
The PGCPS definition of “rigorous literacy,” as defined by the curriculum and instruction team is, “the ability to read, write, speak, listen and use numeracy.”
“For example, we want our students to be able to construct meaning for themselves. If our students can do that, they are well on their way,” Gladys Whitehead, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said at the work session. “We’re not trying to train our students or teach to the test. If we can give our students the skills, they can be successful no matter what test you put in front of them.”
The school system is already working on implementing literacy programs and new instructional teachings to help with overall literacy, which Whitehead said will lead to not only better test scores, but well-rounded students.
In September, PGCPS set out goals for themselves to reach academic excellence for their students. Those goals, according to the plan provided by PGCPS, include a desire for 45 percent of elementary students to obtain a two or better (of three) on the local and state assessments in writing, 20 percent to get a two or better in critical reading assessments, 40 percent to get a two or better in math assessments, and 39 percent of pre-K and kindergarten students should “meet or exceed state standards for language and literacy and mathematical thinking based off the (kindergarten readiness assessment).”
By 2020, PGCPS aims to have 70 percent of elementary students obtain a two or better on local and state assessments in writing, 60 percent in critical reading, 70 percent in math, 60 percent of pre-K and kindergarten students meeting or exceeding state standards. However, these are only empty promises they are making without showing any major plans to accomplish these tasks.
Goals were also set for high school students and included increasing the average SAT score to the “college ready” indicator score of 1550, and increasing the pass rate of AP and International Baccalaureate exams. However, those are goals only by name.
“I believe with all my heart that there is no reason why Prince George’s County students should not be performing at or above the average of every other student in the state of Maryland, so that is the ultimate goal,” Eubanks said in September. “We have to create ambitious benchmarks to get there. Real goals have to be right on the edge of achievability, which always means you might not achieve all of them.”
In the end, there is no question, the county school system is much worse off than when the new leadership led by Kevin Maxwell took over the PGCPS System. This is not the kind of leadership we had envisioned in the very beginning. The problem is complicated by hiring staff members and spouses of highly connected politicians in Maryland to swindle the Prince George’s county schools from the inside in a clever ploy without anything to show for it and eventually run it down.
We must demand an end to this kind of shenanigan ASAP!