26 of the 50 schools most improved in English test scores in Maryland are in Prince George’s County.
The 2022-2023 school year’s Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program scores show improvement in students’ English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency around the state. According to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), 2022-2023 ELA proficiency rates for grades 3-8 combined and English 10 are the highest since the State transitioned to the PARCC tests in 2015. This trend is consistent across most student groups, including race/ethnicity and gender. Additionally, between 16 and 22 percent of students in ELA were on the cusp of proficiency, defined as needing, on average, an additional 1-3 correct answers to reach mastery.
Prince George’s leads the pack — and how they did it
Of the 50 most improved schools around Maryland, 26 were in Prince George’s County, a Baltimore Banner analysis found. Of those 26 schools, eight “went from a majority of their students failing the exam to a majority of their students passing.”
Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) leaders say “there wasn’t one special formula” to the district’s ELA success, but there are several factors and critical actions that improved student proficiency. As The Baltimore Banner reports, “But they consistently said targeted, data-driven interventions were one thing that worked.”
Here are some of the strategies implemented by the 26 best-performing Prince George’s schools (of the top 50 most improved Maryland schools):
- Expansion of interventions: The district used federal funds to expand interventions or personalized instruction for struggling students. This included computer-based programming with lessons based on the “science of reading” that is usually preserved just for students with individualized education plans (IEPs).
- Targeted help: Teachers worked with students in small groups, analyzed data to see how those students performed, and used that information to target students who needed the most help.
- Competitive tone: One principal was “competitive about boosting scores” and made it the theme in the improvement process. “That meant taking on a coaching mentality in terms of looking at assessments, which I consider my playbook,” she said. Teachers then used “playbook” scores to target weaknesses.
- Increased writing: The school system, county-wide, also increased student writing activities. According to former Prince George’s County Superintendent Monica Goldson, the practice could be another reason for the district’s gains. The Baltimore Banner noted, “When classes were virtual during the pandemic, the only way to assess what students were learning was to get them to write it out. That prompted a three-year focus on writing.”
- Peer learning: PGCPS implemented “lesson walks” for teachers and sometimes central office staff as a peer-to-peer collaborative learning and sharing process. School leaders would visit other schools a few times a year and learn about practices that helped students there. The host school also received feedback from visitors to further the improvement process.