MCPS students’ test scores plummet in science, rebound in math

The sharp drop in standardized test scores in math that followed remote learning in Montgomery County Public Schools has shown signs of improvement, both in the district and across the state generally, according to results released last week from the state Department of Education.

But county students recorded large declines in eighth-grade science and mild improvement in English language arts in the 2022-2023 school year.

The department of education last week released results from the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP), which are standardized assessment that measure students’ performance and mastery of Maryland content standards in math, English language arts and science.

MCAP assessments allow parents, teachers and the school system to gain a better understanding of how schools are performing and where students need assistance.

According to MCAP data from the department of education, the percentage of students with proficient math scores from grades three to eight increased by 2.5 percentage points statewide, to 25%. In Montgomery County, the percentage of proficient scores increased by 2.6 percentage points, to 34%.

Of the students that took the Algebra I assessment, 22% received proficient scores, a higher percentage than statewide scores at 17%, per department of education data. During the 2020-2021 school year, 20.4% of county students taking Algebra I assessment received proficient scores.

The most dramatic shift in county MCAP scores was in grade eight science assessment, which fell 11.3 percentage points, to 33.7% proficiency from 45%.

Since 2019, test scores of students taking the grade eight science assessment have steadily decreased. Credit: Screenshot of 2023 English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science Assessment Results via Maryland Board of Education

MCAPScienceResultsGrade8-1024x488.pngDownload Image
Image Name: MCAPScienceResultsGrade8-1024x488.png

Montgomery County ranks eighth in the state in grade eight science proficiency. Credit: Screenshot of 2023 English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science Assessment Results via Maryland Board of Education

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Improvements were seen on the grade five science tests. The percentage of students scoring proficient was 41.8%, an improvement of 4.2 percentage points over the prior year (37.6%).

Compared with statewide data the county had higher levels of proficient science scores across the board. Data from the department of education shows 34.5% of grade five science test scores and 26.4% of grade eight science test scores were proficient statewide.

Members of the MCPS Board of Education as well as a spokesperson for MCPS did not respond to MoCo360’s requests for comment.

In a press release from the department of education, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Dist. 46) said the Maryland General Assembly recognized that disruptions caused by the pandemic caused “an urgent crisis” to students’ educational performance.

“That’s why the legislature made historic investments in recent years to bridge the digital divide, and scale learning interventions like tutoring and summer school to get our kids back on track,” Ferguson said in the release. “The improvement of MCAP scores throughout the State demonstrates the efficacy of that strategy and the importance of sustainable Blueprint funding so every Maryland student can maximize their potential.”

Moderate improvement to English language arts and science

English language arts (ELA) assessment scores in the county did not see a sharp drop post-pandemic like math scores, state data shows. In the 2022-2023 school year, county students improved slightly. According to the department of education, 54% of county students reached  proficient scores on their ELA grade three through eight tests, a 1.4 percentage point increase from the school year prior. Across the state, students improved by 2.9 percentage points, to 47%.

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In the press release, officials shared that they engaged with over 30,000 parents and guardians across the state who said they prioritized reading and writing proficiency for their children. The 2022-2023 MCAP results “show significant strides – better results for all children, with improvements across every subgroup, than in a decade,” the release stated.

Results from the 2022-2023 MCAP assessments revealed that challenges still lie ahead for underserved students, said State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury in the release.

“Our goal is unequivocal: to have all Maryland students college and career ready. We are stubborn in our accountability; unrelenting in our mission to narrow and ultimately close opportunity and achievement gaps. We set this high bar for ourselves, and we will not waver until we reach it,” he said.

According to the department of education, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to administer annual assessments in ELA and mathematics to all students in grades three through eight and once in high school. Additionally, ESSA requires an annual English language proficiency assessment for English learners from kindergarten to 12th grade, as well as alternate assessments for students with “significant cognitive disabilities.”

Before the MCAP, from 2015 to 2019 students across the state took the PARCC test (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no tests were administered in 2020, per the department of education.

Currently results for the 2020-2021 school year are available on the Maryland public school report card website. MCAP test results for the 2022-2023 school year will be updated to the website on Sept. 26. More information regarding student demographics will be available then.

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