Montgomery students are meeting literacy expectations but are behind in math

By Nicole Asbury

Montgomery County students met the school system’s performance target in reading but fell short of goals in math for the last school year, according to academic data shared with the school board Thursday.

Overall, 71.7 percent of students met academic standards in literacy. That was 5.8 percentage points higher than the goal for the 2021-2022 school year, which was originally set for 65.9 percent.

Math scores were lower, with 61.2 percent of students meetingexpectations; lower than the 64.1 percent target.

The data follows trends seen nationally of students who are continuing to catch up after two years of disrupted learningduring the pandemic, with the district’s economically disadvantaged students and students of colordisproportionately lagging behind.

Most Prince George’s students scoring below grade level on district tests

The academic data presented to the board focused on students in second, fifth, eighth and 11th grades. It was further categorized by race and economic status.The results are a mix of students’ report card grades, district tests and other outside exams — such as state-level exams, AP tests and the SAT. Scores were presented for each of the tests.

Student scores on report cards were higher than those on district tests and outside assessments, the data showed. In math, for example, fifth- and eighth-graders’ report card scores were twice that of the district’s test scores.

During a discussion on math scores, Kisha Logan, director of pre-K through 12th grade curriculum, said district assessments depict a student’s understanding of a topic during a specific moment in time. But report card grades generally reflect a longer period of time, after a teacher has the time to help a student better understand a topic.

Board member Lynne Harris (At Large) saidshe’d heard from teachers that because of the amount of re-teaching that has had to be done, the district’s assessments have tested students on topics they hadn’t yet gotten to in the classroom.

“This is a very common discrepancy that you see in districts,” said board member Scott Joftus (District 3), who is also a consultant for superintendents and school districts across the country. “One thing that I think we need to be careful about is that there’s not a misunderstanding among our educators about what the level of expectation is.”

Joftus added that normally, when data collected directly from the classroom — like the report card data — shows twice the amount of students being successful compared with district assessments, “it means that our expectations are somewhat out of alignment.”

Officials from the school district’s curriculum office said they plan to focus on professional development initiatives for teachers, which would include training on different data tools to monitor student progress. They also use the data to better help students who have a significant need, which could include targeted tutoring before or after school.