Maryland students' performance dropped in math and reading at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels on standardized tests known as the Nation's Report Card, according to results released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Maryland State Department of Education noted that scores released remain above the national average in most areas, though Maryland dipped just below the national average in fourth-grade math. Maryland included a larger percentage of students with disabilities and English language learners in its results than in previous years.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who entered office in January, said the exclusions of such students under his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, produced misleading results.
"By misleading the public and purposefully excluding students who would lower scores, a false sense of security was created and a major disservice was done to the state and most importantly to our parents and students,'' Hogan said in a statement. "These scores reflect a level of transparency not seen in a long time and are a wake-up call for Maryland. It is time we had an open, honest discussion about education policy in our state and begin to close the achievement gaps.''
Haley Morris, a spokeswoman for O'Malley's presidential campaign, said the former governor made education a priority and increased funding during his eight-year tenure, when graduation rates went up and pre-kindergarten was expanded.
The state education department said it has worked closely with the National Assessment of Educational Progress and local school systems to decrease exclusions. In 2013, Maryland excluded 12.6 percent of students in fourth-grade reading. Last year, the exclusion rate was dropped to 3.6 percent. The exclusion rate for eighth grade dropped from 9.2 percent to 4.8 percent.
The test examines a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students on reading and mathematics every two years. It is a congressionally authorized project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education through the National Center for Education Statistics. Students are tested on standards that differ in both content and sequencing from those assessed by Maryland's state tests.
A look at the results:
FOURTH-GRADE READING: Maryland's average score fell from 232 in 2013 to 223 in 2015. The national average is 221. The 2015 score in Maryland is 10 points higher than in 1992.
EIGHTH-GRADE READING: Scores fell from 274 in 2013 to 268 in 2015. The national average is 264. The 2015 score in Maryland is six points higher than in 1998.
FOURTH-GRADE MATH: The average score in Maryland dropped from 245 in 2013 to 239 in 2015. The national average is 240. Maryland scores are 17 points ahead of where they were in 2000.
EIGHTH-GRADE MATH: Maryland's score went down from 287 in 2013 to 283 in 2015. The national average is 281. Maryland scores remain five points ahead of where they were in 2003.