- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Prince George’s County officials, who have struggled for years to explain low test scores, say the county’s public schools finally have turned a corner.

The county’s 133,454 students showed an overall proficiency improvement of 18 percent in the reading section of the Maryland State Assessment (MSA) exams and a gain of 16 percent in mathematics.

County officials yesterday attributed the turnaround to hard work on the part of students and teachers — and the leadership of Prince George’s schools chief Andre J. Hornsby.

Prince George’s third-graders recorded the highest increase in reading proficiency in Maryland, jumping from 41 percent last year to 57 percent this year.

The MSA exams are given to third- through eighth-grade students, and 10th-graders take just the reading section. To comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the state last year switched from a more complex exam to the MSA, which is a “selected response” short-answer test.

According to the Maryland State Department of Education, MSA scores this year improved throughout the state’s 24 public school districts.

Scores improved just slightly in Montgomery County, where third-graders recorded the highest overall reading and math proficiency levels in the state.

Of the county’s third-graders, 78 percent were proficient in reading, up eight percentage points over last year, and 79 percent were proficient in math.

The biggest gain in Montgomery County occurred at Broad Acres Elementary School, which has the county’s highest poverty rate. Reading proficiency there jumped from 47 percent to 75 percent.

About 53 percent of Prince George’s students were proficient in reading, up from 45 percent of last year’s students, and 43 percent were proficient in math, up from 37 percent last year.

Mr. Hornsby hired 35 new principals last year to implement his changes throughout the district, and county officials said yesterday at a press conference in Upper Marlboro that the biggest test score gains happened in those schools.

“If our teachers begin to experience success with our children, it’s infectious,” Mr. Hornsby said. “It never ends.”

County officials said they are happiest that the improvements occurred in every racial demographic and that some of the largest gains came in schools that struggled last year.

On the reading section of the 2004 MSA, whites scored highest, while black students showed the greatest improvement. Blacks improved from 43 percent proficiency last year to 51 percent proficiency this year. In mathematics, Asians scored the highest.

Principals yesterday credited the eagerness of their students and the energy of their teachers for raising the test scores.

“The teachers came early,” said Robert Pollard, acting principal of Nicholas Orem Middle School in Hyattsville. “They stayed late.”

Nicholas Orem improved its MSA reading proficiency from 30 percent to 47 percent and its math proficiency from 10 percent to 26 percent.

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