‘Not as gloomy as you think’: In Maryland, English test scores rise, math scores dive

Student test scores in Maryland have returned to pre-pandemic proficiency in English language arts, but continue to plummet in mathematics.

The Maryland State Department of Education released updated findings in its first administration of the new Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) on Tuesday. The data includes  cohort findings, which track how Maryland students in a particular grade fared in the 2021-2022 school year compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the state’s education department, Maryland students have returned to pre-pandemic proficiency in English language arts, reaching similar or improved proficiency rates compared to the 2018-2019 school year.

In fact, in the high school English 10th grade assessment, 53% of all students taking the test were proficient — an increase of 10 percentage points compared to 2018-2019.

However, math proficiency has dropped dramatically.

Math proficiency percentages for grades 3 through 8, combined, decreased from 33% in 2018-2019 to 22% in 2021-2022.

In middle school, 18% of sixth grade students were proficient in math and just 7% of students who took the grade 8 assessment were proficient.

In following cohorts of students over time, the scores showed math proficiency decreased approximately 25 percentage points between third and eight grades, according to the new data.

State Superintendent of Schools Mohammad Choudhury acknowledged work needed to be done, but said the details provided in the MCAP show many students’ results hover just below proficiency rates.

The MCAP includes four performance levels: distinguished learner, proficient learner, developing learner and beginning learner.

Despite the results, Choudhury expressed optimism.

“There is the gloom story of math, but there are so many kids who are close to hit that proficiency bar, too,” said Choudhury. “They’re on the cusp of it.”

Choudhury said the details available in the MCAP will provide information for educators to help students reach proficiency.

While some members of the board might read the highlights and conclude ‘Our schools are failing’ — it’s not as gloomy as you think it is,” said Choudhury.

“That’s very important, but the headlines won’t capture that, because people don’t write with that level of nuance.”

All students who participated in the spring 2022 assessments will receive an individual report, which enables educators and families to understand a student’s proficiency on Maryland content standards both individually, and in comparison, to peers in their school, county or city, and the state.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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