More than half of Maryland schools have recovered from pandemic learning loss in English, according to test scores released Tuesday that reveal how individual schools fared on the 2023 Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program.

Test scores took a dip in 2021 after a year of remote learning, but many schools this year are seeing the number of students score proficient on state English language arts tests hit or surpass 2019 levels. A Baltimore Banner analysis found that 66% of elementary schools, 54% of middle schools and 70% of high schools reached pre-pandemic proficiency levels in English.

The head of Baltimore City Public Schools said the system hit a milestone.

“We now, as of this year, actually have our highest proficiency levels since MCAP,” Sonja Santelises, the system’s CEO, said about the state test that debuted in 2019.

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Data shows that 59% of the city’s elementary schools and 41% of its middle schools are at or above their pre-pandemic English language arts proficiency rates. Three-quarters of city high schools hit or surpassed where they were four years ago.

The city also surpassed statewide recovery in math. A quarter of Maryland elementary schools and a third of middle schools were at or above their pre-pandemic proficiency levels on the state math test. Meanwhile, 47% of the city’s elementary schools and 65% of its middle schools held firm or made improvements.

The city’s test scores, however, are still low compared to the rest of the state. But Santelises saw its recovery as something to be proud of.

“Our pre-pandemic, long-term investments in ELA are paying off,” she said in an interview. “On the ELA grades 3-5, we had 18 schools that earned growth of 10 percentage points [or more].”

One school she highlighted was Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School in Charles Village. It improved by 15 percentage points in elementary English. She also noted how much Westport Academy, an elementary school in Southwest Baltimore, bounced back. She said the school was only 2% proficient in elementary English when the pandemic started, but now it’s 15% proficient.

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Not all schools are where she wants them to be “but when you talk about where we started, and throw a pandemic in the middle of it, our ELA performance now exceeds the pre-pandemic level performance, which is a big deal for us.”

Some student demographics are closing achievement gaps, such as English language learners and Black students — not as fast as Santelises would like, but closing nonetheless. More work needs to be done with special education students, she added.

The Banner’s analysis of state math test scores does not include an Algebra I test given in middle and high schools. Because many high-achieving students take Algebra I in middle school, a larger proportion of students who take the test in high school are struggling math students, which can make high school math proficiency appear lower.

In Anne Arundel, 13.4% of elementary schools and 8% of middle schools are at or above pre-pandemic scores in math. In English, it’s 57% for elementary, 56% in middle school and 65% in high school.

Baltimore County had similar results with 16% of elementary students and just 3% of middle schools making improvements in math. English scores are far better, with 62% of elementary schools near or above pre-pandemic levels along with 57% of middle schools and 39% of high schools.

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Myriam Rogers, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, said the schools that made significant gains in English include Catonsville Elementary, Westchester Elementary, Hillcrest Elementary, Catonsville High, Western School of Technology, Fort Garrison Elementary, Summit Park Elementary and Prettyboy Elementary.

She also pointed out a few schools who did well in math. Sixth graders at Catonsville Middle made significant progress, and students at Sudbrook Magnet Middle made progress in algebra, she said. Hereford High, Perry Hall Middle and Eastern Technical High School were also among the standouts.

Howard County had greater recovery in math. There were 21% of elementary schools who met or exceeded pre-pandemic levels and 30% of middle schools. In English, 67% of elementary schools, 80% of middle schools and 54% of high schools were at or above 2019 scores.

Harford County had no middle schools making math improvements, but 15% of elementary schools did. The opposite was true for English, with 93% of elementary schools, 80% of middle schools and 83% of high schools holding steady or making improvements.

A similar scenario played out in Carroll with 10% of elementary schools and 0% of middle schools improving or maintaining proficiency levels in math. However, 81% of elementary schools, 66% of middle schools and three-quarters of high schools improved or maintained their English scores.

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This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Sudbrook Magnet Middle.