Credit: Joshua Hoehne

Academic achievement data reported to the state by Montgomery County Public Schools shows that middle school math proficiency dropped by nearly half since the last pre-pandemic state report, with Black students, Hispanic/Latine students and students with disabilities scoring the lowest.

On Thursday, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) released its first statewide school report card since the COVID-19 pandemic. The data reveals that Montgomery County students failed to meet academic achievement targets at all school levels—but most severely in math.

Overall, MCPS middle school math proficiency went from 42.5% in 2019 to just under 23% in 2022. The success of students from underrepresented communities fell even further, with the math proficiency rate for Hispanic and Latine middle schoolers sinking from 18.7% to 7%, and Black middle schoolers going from 22% to 9.6%.

Chart created by Em Espey using data from the Maryland State Department of Education.

This trend is also reflected in neighboring districts, with Frederick County going from an overall middle school math proficiency rate of 45.8% in 2019 to 24.9% in 2022. Prince George’s County experienced an even more dramatic decline, dropping from 15.7% to 8.5% over the same period—with only 5.7% of Hispanic and Latine students achieving proficiency.

Responding to a request for comment on the drop in math proficiency, MCPS spokesperson Jessica Baxter wrote to MoCo360:


“MCPS is not immune to the effects of the pandemic that we’ve seen nationwide on math and literacy. This is why the Superintendent and Board of Education has proposed a historic budget in nature – to recover from lost learning time and provide the necessary interventions and support to improve student outcomes.”

Mara Greengrass is the mother of a 14-year-old Argyle Middle School student and an 18-year-old Northwood High School student. She said she was stunned by the drop in performance data and has never seen anything like it.

“It’s so drastic that my first thought is, are they sure about this?” she said.


She said virtual learning over the pandemic made it hard for students to get help from teachers when tackling math problems and other exercises, which could have contributed to the numbers—but added that she’s interested to know whether socioeconomic factors also played into the decline.

PTA leader and vocal community advocate Laura Stewart echoed Greengrass’ concerns, adding that truncated instruction time due to COVID-19 may also have contributed to the troubling data.

“It’s very hard to catch up from a catastrophe like that,” she said of the pandemic. “It’s going to take more than a year to recover.”


Former school board member Jill Ortman-Fouse pointed to aggravated pandemic-related mental health concerns as another potential factor. Nationwide, over 80% of public schools reported that the pandemic negatively impacted student behavior and development, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“If you were trying to keep students attending class and engaged, not overdosing, and not losing their lives to suicide — while domestic abuse increased, families were running out of food and being kicked out of their homes — math may not have been at the top of their hierarchy of needs,” Ortman-Fouse said.

Baxter highlighted increased funding for staffing and professional development opportunities as budget items aimed at improving student outcomes in the new school year.


School board president Karla Silvestre echoed Baxter’s optimism about investments in the new budget improving the low math rates, telling MoCo360 in an email:

“MCPS has a plan in the works to overhaul middle school math. We must do better for our students on such a foundational subject, and we will.”

Meanwhile, performance levels in English language arts dropped marginally across the county over the pandemic but still marked an improvement since the previous report card, with MCPS students meeting the overall 2021-22 annual targets for competence.


Chart created by Em Espey using data from the Maryland State Department of Education.

The report uses school-specific data to evaluate every public school in the state and rate their success on a scale of one star to five stars. In a press release on Friday, MCPS highlighted data from its new state report card showing that the number of county schools receiving a rating of 5 stars from the MSDE rose by 43% since the 2019 report. According to the report, 92% of MCPS schools achieved a score of three stars or higher.

According to the report, more than half of the state’s school districts saw some improvement since the last time the report card was released in 2019, with more than 75% of schools earning 3, 4 or 5 star ratings.