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Montgomery County Public Schools Fare Well in Progress Index

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr is critical of the purpose of the index.

Montgomery County's public schools fared well in the state's most recently released School Progress Index—a new accountability measure whose purpose has been criticized by Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr.

The School Progress Index—which uses a formula, based mostly on state test scores, to determine how schools are progressing toward academic goals—was released on Monday. Sixty-four percent of the county's public schools made it into the top two (of five) strands, the two strands requiring the least amount of monitoring and support, according to a county schools statement. 

Overall, the county school system received an index score of 1.014. A score of 1.0 or higher means that the school or school system has met the goals assigned to it by the state education department.

But, eight MCPS schools—two elementary, four middle and two special schools—were listed as being in strand five—the bottom strand, which requires the highest level of monitoring, the statement added.

This ranking of schools into strands is something that Superintendent Starr criticizes.

"The School Progress Index has the same weaknesses as many previous accountability schemes—it relies too much on standardized tests to place inaccurate labels on schools," Starr said.

"I appreciate what the Maryland State Department of Education is attempting to do; however, what’s not clear to me is the purpose of this approach to accountability. Additionally, labeling schools with a strand or a grade has not been shown to be an effective mechanism for school improvement in other places where it is used," Starr continued.

Still, Starr added that "the data, itself, is instructive. ... I'm just concerned about how the data is being used."

Starr has called for a "three-year moratorium on statewide testing while school districts implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mathematics and English language arts, and while assessments aligned to the CCSS are put in place," the county schools statement continued.

By 2015, Maryland is expected to replace the current Maryland School Assessments in math and English language arts with new tests being developed by a consortium of more than 20 states—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

"The new assessments will include performance tasks and multi-step problems and, most likely, will be administered online, a significant change from the current set of assessments," the statement added. 

View Maryland's report card website for more information on your local schools.

Do you agree with Starr that the School Progress Index relies too much on standardized tests, and that placing schools in one of five "strands" is not in the schools' best interests? Tell us in the comments.

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