Students at Arcola Elementary School participate in a lesson in July 2021. Credit: Caitlynn Peetz

While Montgomery County public school students have returned to pre-pandemic English language arts proficiency, math proficiency is persistently on the decline, according to new data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

The MDOE reports statewide math proficiency for grades 3-8 as 22%. Within Montgomery County, the rate is higher but still only 31%, according to the data, taken from a spring 2022 assessment.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, requires all U.S. states to assess students grades 3 through 8 in English Language Arts (ELA), math and science on an annual basis. On Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Education published results.

Following cohorts of Maryland students since school year 2016-17, state education officials found that while students’ English language proficiency increased by 4%-5% between grades 3 and 8, math proficiency decreased by 24%-26% over the same period—falling from 44.7% in grade 3 to 18.2% in grade 8 for the class of 2026.

Students with disabilities, low-income students and students learning English as a second language continue to score the lowest on math tests.

Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson Jessica Baxter told Bethesda Beat “middle school math is a concern” but added that “overall numbers are showing improvement across the system in enrollment and graduation rates.” There are 2,322 more students enrolled in 2023 compared to 2022, although in 2019 there were 2,126 more students than today. And in 2022, 84.2% of ninth graders were on track to graduate, compared with 81.7% in 2021.


Deputy Superintendent Patrick Murphy shared the student performance data on Monday that showed MCPS students were underperforming on eighth-grade math even before the pandemic compared to the statewide average.

Data from 2019—the last year math proficiency was tested pre-pandemic—shows MCPS students scored an average of 10.9 points below the state average in eighth grade math. The new data released by the state on Tuesday shows that while MCPS students are still under-performing in math, the proficiency rate is now 9% higher than the state average.

Graph published by MCPS shows how the county performed in grade 8 math compared to the state.

The state education department noted in its report Tuesday that a significant percentage of Maryland students are “on the cusp of proficiency,” scoring just below the proficiency score cutoff for math. For example, 49% of fifth-grade students scored just below the proficiency cutoff for math.


The low math proficiency rates will be “a discussion that the board and the superintendent are going to be talking about as we move forward through the second half of the school year,” Murphy said on Monday.