Fewer public schools in the Maryland suburbs received the highest ratings — four or five stars — in a statewide system for tracking school performance, according to data released Tuesday as the initiative marked a second year.
The dip in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, just outside of Washington, followed adjustments in how state officials measure school success, with several factors added to give a fuller picture of performance on school-by-school “report cards.”
Notably, there were 13 fewer five-star schools in high-performing Montgomery County and five fewer in Prince George’s, according to an analysis of state data by The Washington Post.
State officials said this year’s ratings go a step beyond last year’s, when they rolled out the new approach, which brings together an array of data and comes up with ratings of one to five stars for each public school. They pointed to the system as a way for schools to get better.
“It really is a local school system charge to take a look at their data . . . to decide, ‘What do we really need to focus on in order to improve?’ ” State Superintendent Karen Salmon told the state board of education at its Tuesday meeting. “That’s what this report card is all about. It’s about giving everyone that look, that transparent look, at where they are and where they need to go.”
Statewide, more than half of schools earned the highest star ratings — four or five — as was the case last year, although the data showed a slight decline, with roughly 55 percent of schools reaching that level, compared with 59 percent in 2018.
The star ratings of 853 schools stayed the same from the rollout to this year, while 275 schools lost a star or two and 181 added one or more stars. State officials did not detail reasons for the rise or fall of schools.AD
In Montgomery County, with Maryland’s largest school system, about 68 percent of schools earned four or five stars — down from 78 percent last year.
In Prince George’s County, with the second-largest enrollment in Maryland, 35 percent of schools reached four stars or above — compared with 44 percent last year.
Many of the state’s one-star schools were in Baltimore.
Of the state’s 189 five-star schools, 37 were in Montgomery County (down from 50 last year) and four were in Prince George’s (compared with nine last year).
The state’s system also presents percentile rankings for each school. Maryland has about 1,400 public schools, most of which were included in the star ratings.
States across the country and the Districtare adopting similar approaches to accountability, in keeping with the requirements of federal education law.
D.C. schools reported its second-year data last week, with results showing schools that serve a more affluent population were more likely to receive five stars. The highest concentrations of one- and two-star schools were in the city’s poorest wards.
In Maryland, schools are evaluated according to a formula that touches on test scores, student growth, curriculum, absenteeism, graduation rates, English-language proficiency and other factors.
New for this year are data related to science assessments, indicators of progress since the previous year, and numbers reflecting surveys of students and educators on school climate.
State officials said students in fifth to 11th grade completed surveys about the quality and character of their schools. Overall, students felt a little less favorable about their schools than educators did, state officials said.AD
Prince George’s County officials said Tuesday they were still analyzing the data and examining the effect of the newly added factors on school ratings.
In a letter to the community, Monica Goldson, chief executive of Prince George’s County Public Schools, said 80 percent of county schools earned a three-, four- or five-star rating.
“We know that ratings alone do not tell a school’s story,” she wrote, adding that ratings may not reflect all factors that contribute to a school’s success.
“Ratings provide an indication of our strengths and highlight areas that we should better support,” she wrote.
Montgomery County Superintendent Jack Smith said the state report card data showed most schools performing at high levels. “However, the data also confirms that there is much more work to do to ensure each student at every school is meeting their full potential,” he said in a statement.AD
Smith noted that the new factors that have been included in state ratings make it hard to directly compare this year with 2018 results and said the state report card provides “a limited view” of student progress.
He pointed to the equity and accountability report cards that Montgomery has created, which he said use multiple and frequent measures of student progress to get at issues of whether schools are serving all who attend.
Prince George’s officials said they are launching a local accountability system to provide “real-time data” on several measures that are part of the state system, along with factors such as student discipline — to help staff members develop interventions.
Cynthia Simonson, a vice president with the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, said that the state’s website appeared to be extremely slow or down Tuesday and that parents were having trouble accessing their school ratings.AD
Some families will be glad to see schools get additional stars, but for those that lose a star, questions will arise — questions that may be tough for principals to explain, Simonson said.
“There doesn’t seem to be a quick and dirty guide to what these things mean, and what it means in the context of our school system,” she said.
Tammy Clark, a mother of three in Montgomery County, said her son’s school — Montgomery Village Middle — got two stars last year, and earned three in the latest rating.
“Last year’s two was a hard thing to swallow,” she said, attributing some of the low rating to a factor involving curriculum. “We’re moving in the right direction.”
Andrew Ross, a father in Germantown who has a daughter at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School, was not bothered to hear the school lost a star.
“Regardless of what any stars say, I would judge with my own eyes, and I am completely satisfied with Loiederman,” he said.