Testing declines in four categories placed behind its federally-mandated Adequate Yearly Progress goals, according to statistics sent home to parents last month.
In last year's Maryland State Assessments, the school fell short of math goals among Hispanic and special education students, and reading goals among students receiving free or reduced price meals and students with limited English proficiency. Read the state report card on its website.
Only 23 Baltimore County schools—13 percent—are on the state list of schools that need improvement. The list also includes , which was added in 2007. Dumbarton is the only middle school in Baltimore County added to the list for 2011.
The largest gap came for the English language learners, where only 33 of 79 test takers scored proficient. The 41.8 percent proficiency rate fell short of a target of at least 74.5 percent.
The state is required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act to create performance targets, with the goal of having all students proficient in reading and math by the 2013-14 school year.
The good news? Across the board, all grades at Dumbarton had between 80 and 90 percent of their students score proficient or higher on the reading and math MSA tests.
Kelly Erdman, Dumbarton's principal, said the school made the same improvement list last year, and has made it in the past. She said parents were kept informed with letters at the beginning of the year and regular updates throughout the year.
"By no means do we not have work to do, but sometimes I think it is misrepresented when it shows that we don't consistently make AYP because if you look at our data for all students, as far as that category goes, we are way ahead with advanced and proficient compared to some other schools," she said. "And every school has a challenging subgroup."
One of Dumbarton's challenges is among the English language learners. Dumbarton, Erdman said, is often the destination for students who come to Baltimore County from foreign countries.
These students—113 to 135 every year—arrive with widely varying degrees of English proficiency and school experience, and that has an impact on state test scores.
Many of those same students fall under the other categories for Hispanic and lower-income children.
"We obviously always strive for as many of our [English language learner] students to be as proficient as possible and we prepare them for the MSA and we have high expectations," Erdman said. "But at the same time, we're realistic as long as we are seeing improvement with our students, then we feel we are moving in the right direction."
Sometimes, as she said was the case for the special education students, "it can be the nature of the test."
"We felt that we were on target to make AYP for math in special education. Then we looked back at the students that weren't proficient on the MSA and we were surprised," she said.
However, Erdman said, the list is no reason to panic and, in fact, unlocks more teaching resources for the school in the coming years.
"Most of our parents are very supportive," she said.