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Schools cash in on performance

November 21, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

Six Washington County schools have been awarded nearly $200,000 for being among the fastest improving schools in the state, officials said.

The schools were awarded the money for showing "substantial and sustained" improvement for two years, particularly in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, an annual academic test for elementary and middle school students, officials said.

The schools and their awards included:

* Cascade Elementary School, $31,882.

* Pleasant Valley Elementary, $24,543.

* Sharpsburg Elementary, $30,462.

* Williamsport Elementary, $34,865.

* Hancock Middle/Senior High School, $31,172.

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* Springfield Middle, $45,661.

Schools also were recognized for posting significant test score improvements in one year.

Local elementary schools receiving School Performance Recognition Certificates included Clear Spring, Emma K. Doub, Fountain Rock, Hancock and Maugansville.

Middle schools receiving certficates were E. Russell Hicks, Smithsburg and Western Heights.

The local schools were part of 68 middle schools and 201 elementary schools across the state that showed improvement, school officials said. A total of $2.8 million was awarded in the program initiated by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

The Maryland School Performance Assessment Program measures students' ability to use more sophisticated ways of thinking. Problems often blend the use of different skills like math and science, and students work in groups to reach solutions.

New teaching methods at the award-winning schools mirror many of the aspects of the assessment tests.

At Cascade Elementary, reading assignments sometimes revolve around publications about Washington County, said Principal Johnetta W. Neal. The intent is to tie the assignment to a real life experience and hopefully spur curiosity, Neal said.

The new method of teaching stemmed from a school improvement plan developed by teachers and parents in 1994, Neal said.

"This is the first piece of the puzzle that came together," Neal said referring to the state award.

Pleasant Valley Elementary Principal Ronald L. Ingram said success on the tests is not done by last minute practicing, but by integrating its concepts into school lessons.

"You have to teach the style," said Boyd J. Michael III, principal at Hancock Middle, where test scores have more than doubled in the last three years.

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