A series of reforms instituted in the primary grades in Maryland's Montgomery County public schools have resulted in significant test-score gains, according to the district.
The initiatives, implemented since the 2000-01 school year in the 139,000-student district, include full- day kindergarten, lower class sizes, a revised curriculum, and increased communication between school officials and parents.
Recently released test results show that 2nd graders, including those who benefited from the interventions at 17 high-need schools, scored at the 83rd percentile in mathematics computation on the TerraNova Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills— the highest ever for the district.
In other areas—reading, language, mathematics, and language mechanics—students scored at or above the 64th percentile for the third straight year.
The results also show that the district has been able to narrow achievement gaps for students of different backgrounds. For the first time ever in the district, students in all racial and ethnic groups scored above the 60th percentile in mathematics computation. Gains were also made in almost every subject for students who are living in poverty and for students whose primary language is not English.
Students in special education showed gains in mathematics computation, moving from the 49th to the 58th percentile over the past year.
The district's longitudinal study of its initiative, called the Early Success Performance Plan, shows that children who entered kindergarten with minimal abilities in four areas—hearing and recording sounds, letter identification, concepts about print, and word recognition—were able to meet or exceed the 50th percentile in reading and language by the 2nd grade.
Those pupils were also more likely to be successful if they remained in the same school over three years.
But those children who were strong in all four abilities when they entered kindergarten were successful in 2nd grade, regardless of whether they changed schools.
In a report to the district school board, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast wrote: "These new findings are important, not only for our own efforts in Montgomery County, but also for demonstrating for others nationally that quality instruction and structural improvements in the early years of elementary school can make a sustained difference in academic achievement for all children."
Vol. 22, Issue 42, Page 10Published in Print: July 9, 2003, as Early Years