Following less than stellar standardized test results, Baltimore County school officials are looking for new ways to improve middle school performance.
Specifically, plans to raise scores include a closer examination of the transition between elementary and middle schools, and an application of best school practices countywide.
"The (Maryland State Assessment) is just one data point," said Penelope Martin-Knox, assistant superintendent of middle schools. "While we have some things to be proud of, there is certainly work that needs to be done."
Results released by the Maryland State Department of Education last Tuesday revealed that Baltimore County middle schools performed several percentage points below the state average in both reading and math on the 2012 Maryland State Assessment. Middle school students across the state performed notably worse than elementary students.
State data further shows that middle schools traditionally lag behind elementary schools.
The assistant superintendent, who took over the helm of middle schools on April 18, cited child development—socially, physically and emotionaly—at the middle school stage as a critical factor in faltering test scores across the nation.
She added that test formats change drastically between elementary and middle schools.
"It's an ongoing process," Martin-Knox said. "Middle school is the time we move away from concrete thinking to abstract."
She said she is working with Superintendent S. Dallas Dance to make middle school education a priority. Dance affirmed this commitment at a Board of Education meeting following the release of the assessment results.
Martin-Knox previously served as the assistant to Edward Newsome, the former assistant superintendent of middle schools. Newsome is now working as the assistant superintendent of high schools.