WASHINGTON – The high school graduation rate in Maryland schools has surpassed a national goal, but student disruptions and other problems continue, according to a study released Thursday.
The National Educational Goals Panel also found that Maryland colleges showed improvement from 1991 to 1993 in the number of bachelor’s degrees in science and math awarded in general, and to females. Thirty-nine percent of all women degree holders earned them in math and science in 1993.
But Maryland did not reach the national goal of a “significant increase” in the number of female students receiving these degrees, the report said. The percentage increased by only 1 percent in two years.
The panel’s “Building a Nation of Learners” outlines the nation’s progress at the half-way mark toward Goals 2000, a national educational reform outline initiated in 1989 by President Bush and the nation’s governors.
The report said the nation is improving in early childhood education and in decreasing violence in schools, but losing the battle against drugs in schools.
“These are tough goals and there’s been progress, but there’s a long way to go, and we need to make more significant changes,” said Gov. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., outgoing chairman of the goals panel.
The goals, spelled out in a bill signed by President Clinton in March 1994, include a 90 percent high school graduation rate in public, private and parochial schools. Maryland’s graduation rate was 93 percent in 1993.
The goals also call for a demonstrated competency and achievement in math and reading before high school graduation; access for teachers to training and professional development; and safe, disciplined and drug-free schools. Sixty-two percent of Maryland teachers reported in 1994 that student disruptions often interferred with teaching and learning.
Another national goal is to make parents and families partners with schools in their children’s educations.
But parental participation in Maryland schools was far below the nation’s average of more than 60 percent. The state’s rate remained the same from 1991 to 1994, below 30 percent, the report said.
Kettering Middle School in Upper Marlboro was cited as an exception to the poor partnership percentage. The school won second place in a national competition in 1995 sponsored by the goals panel, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, Apple Computer and Scholastic Inc.
Kettering has mentoring and adopt-a-child programs, parenting classes, programs for students and parents with mental and physical disabilities, and a number of other workshops, Principal Marian White-Hood said in a phone interview.
“If all schools and communities would open up to Goals 2000, we’d have top-quality schools,” White-Hood said.
“I know our programs work because our test scores have gone up. They are not where I want them to be, but they are improving,” she said.
Ron Peiffer, assistant state superintendent for schools, said students are lagging in reading and math achievement across Maryland, on state tests as well as the national test. The state is working on that, he said.
“Our new Maryland assessment requires teachers to teach differently and re-tool kids in the classroom so they don’t just learn the information and spit it back out, but use the information to do complex problem solving,” he said.
According to the national study, Maryland students did not show any improvement in reading or math achievement at grade levels four and eight between 1990 and 1994.
Peiffer said state test scores showed students were improving in these areas, with about 35.5 percent “passing” this year, up from 31.7 percent last year.
“With gains like this, up a few points each year, we can reach our goal by the end of the decade,” he said. The state goal is a 70 percent proficiency rate in math and reading, he said.
Nationally, students also fared poorly in reading and math, the report said. They showed no improvement from 1992 to 1994, with 25 percent of fourth graders and 28 percent of eighth graders meeting the panel’s standards.
There was some improvement in math from 1990 to 1992, the report said. Fourth graders improved by five percentage points, to 18 percent. Eighth graders improved by five percentage points, to 25 percent.
John Engler, the Republican governor of Michigan and a panel member, said the report does not encompass each state’s initiatives or ideas for reform, but it does accurately assess student achievement.
“People say, `Well, socioeconomic factors.’ But at the end of the day, can the child do the math problem or not?” he asked. -30-