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City Schools’ English Language Arts and math investments contribute to gap closure on 2022 Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program

As a result of ongoing investments in English Language Arts (ELA), Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) has seen increases on the 2022 Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) from pre-pandemic outcomes.  

Meanwhile, like the rest of the state, the district’s math scores dipped from pre-pandemic levels. Overall, the district’s rates of change in both categories from 2019 were better than the state, resulting in gap closures in 7 of 14 tested grades and subjects. 

The pandemic’s impact on student learning has been reflected in a variety of international, national and state ELA and math assessments that were administered in 2022 - including the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). However, City Schools’ focus on those subject areas prior to and in response to the pandemic are producing encouraging results on MCAP, according to Dr. Sonja Santelises, chief executive officer. 

“At the height of the pandemic, we continued implementing instructional strategies - including safely returning to in-person learning sooner than many of our peers – that are leading to positive outcomes in literacy,” said Dr. Santelises. “We know we have work to do in math. We look forward to regaining the momentum and progress we experienced before the pandemic.” 

Closing the gap in ELA performance 

  • City Schools narrowed the difference with Maryland in 3 of 7 tested grades and subjects between 2019 and 2022. The largest gains were in English Language Arts 8 and English Language Arts 10. 
  • Eighth-grade test takers gained 4 percentage points on the state. These outcomes are an indication of the impact of the district’s Blueprint work around literacy which started pre-pandemic.   
  • Tenth-grade test takers improved their overall scores by 18 percentage points. This result closed the gap with Maryland by 8 points since 2019. 
  • The district’s tutoring model focuses on the foundational literacy skills students need to do well on the MCAP. The tutoring provides targeted instruction focused on foundational literacy skills. Students meet with their tutors 5 days a week for 30 minutes daily. Tutors receive on-going in-service training and utilize our adopted foundational literacy curriculum to address individualized needs. 
  • Since the 2021-22 school year, City Schools has invested over $17M in high dosage tutoring as a key academic recovery strategy.  More than 10,632 students (around 13 percent of City Schools students) participated across 129 schools.   
  • A literacy project funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that focuses on teacher-led efforts to closing gaps in literacy for middle school students is also paying dividends.  


Math results confirm trends statewide and nationally 

  • City Schools, like Maryland and school districts across the country, experienced decreases in math results between 2019 and 2022. However, Baltimore City was able to reduce its MCAP losses when compared to the state, largely avoiding the state’s double-digit decreases in nearly every math category. 
  • Overall, City Schools had smaller declines than the state in 4 of 7 tested grades and subjects. The trend helped City Schools narrow the gap by an average of nearly 5 points in those categories. Still, we recognize there is significant work to do to increase our math performance. 
  • Our students closed the gap with Maryland on the Math 6 and Math 7 assessments by seven percentage points each. 
  • City Schools has used ESSER and Blueprint for Maryland (Kirwan) funding to invest in strategies to turn the tide. Also, the district’s COVID-19 recovery plan – Reconnect, Restore, Reimagine – has placed a heavy emphasis on addressing student growth through academic supports.  
  • During the pandemic, City Schools implemented small-group learning time every day for math learning, paired with high-quality instructional materials and personalized learning platforms that have shown to positively impact results. 
  • Our Reconnect, Restore, Reimagine plan focused on strategies for math: 
  • Foundational tutoring, summer learning with a focus on academic recovery in literacy and mathematics 
  • Expanded math professional development for teachers-- similar to what we have already committed to in literacy -- with multiple days with a focused arc of learning on mathematics. 
  • Extended learning period at the end of the day, at all schools, for prioritized students with unfinished learning