MSA scores disappoint the city
The results of Maryland School Assessments were released on Wednesday, and the city was among one of the only districts in the state to note decreases--and some of them were steep, placing 45 city schools in the bottom 50 performers in the state.
It was the first setback the city has noted in quite some time, particularly under city schools CEO Andres Alonso. Alonso said, however, that the losses should not overshadow the progress city students have made over time (leaps and bounds when compared to 2004, when the MSAs were first administered). Still, while the state's scores steadily climbed (even by a little), the city's didn't.
The news was a blow to the city, who for the past few years were celebrating the extraordinary gains of its poor, minority students, whose underdog story gained national attention. The drops stung a little more that city students are arguably easier targets than their peers in the counties, with their successes always bringing an extra layer of scrutiny.
That scrutiny came two-fold this year. The results of the MSA came out one week after Alonso announced that now three city schools have been confirmed to have cheated on the assessments. The results this year, Alonso said, also reflected an unprecedented show of test security throughout the district. Still, a dozen more schools are currently being investigated by the state.
It's hard to grasp what to do with all of that. You don't know whether to question whether there was system-wide cheating, or worse, that students really aren't learning (not that they can't, that they aren't). Drawing any conclusions just seems unfair and judgmental to students and the educators who work hard to help them achieve. And we should continue to be proud of how far the city has come.
However, what is fair to conclude is that all of the players will have to raise their game. Even I need to focus more on telling the stories about what's happening in city classrooms.
And as Alonso starts with a new baseline for the next four years of his tenure, I believe our editorial board summed up the sentiment being felt throughout the city:
"If he wants to erase the blow this year's scores have dealt to the city's belief that its schools are improving, he doesn't have long to come up with an answer. In the next year he will be under pressure he hasn't seen since he first arrived in Baltimore, and the measure of his success will be simple: Can he maintain or increase the level of testing security in 2012 and still produce better scores? For the sake of the students and the city, the answer had better be yes."