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Report says many county grads not ready for college

August 26, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

A statewide study suggests that Washington County high school graduates aren't as well prepared for college, particularly in the area of math, as other public school students in Maryland.

Forty-one percent of college-bound students who graduated from Washington County schools in 1996 had to take remedial math as freshmen, said the Maryland Higher Education Commission report, which tracked 481 students in the county who went to Maryland colleges and universities that fall.

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No other county in the state, or Baltimore City, sent a higher percentage of college-prepatory students into such classes, the report showed.

The statewide average was 25 percent.

Among those Washington County students who didn't take college preparatory classes in high school, 59 percent had to take remedial math in college, the report showed. That compared to 40 percent statewide.

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Washington County students also had to take more remedial English and reading classes than students statewide, the report showed.

"We're not pleased with that, by any stretch of the imagination," said Washington County Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr.

Bartlett said the schools are planning fundamental changes that would address such problems. A draft plan of action, prepared with the help of the community, is to be released in two weeks.

The schools are trying to make it easier for parents to compare their child's progress with that of other students statewide, he said.

For example, the next elementary report cards will show at what grade level the student is reading, he said.

Parents also said they were concerned about the survey results.

"My first reaction is I'm disappointed," said Jenny Belliotti, president of the county Council of Parent-Teacher Associations.

"You expect them to be prepared for college if that's the track they choose," said Mike Stouffer, chairman of the Smithsburg High School Citizens' Advisory Committee.

But they had faith that the system is being reformed.

"I think we've really taken a microscope, or at least a magnifying glass, to where our problems are," Belliotti said.

Stouffer, who has children in their freshman and a junior years at Smithsburg High, agreed.

"I'm feeling more confident we have the people in place that can fix it," he said.

Ed Kuczynski said he hasn't noticed a problem at Williamsport High School, where his son is a junior. Students there today are better prepared for college than when he graduated in 1975, he said.

Kuczynski, chairman of the Williamsport High Citizens' Advisory Committee, speculated that the county's remediation levels may be high because there are so many first-generation college students in the county.

Parents who have not been to college may be less able to prepare students on what to expect in college, he said.

The higher education commission noted a few possible flaws in its study.

The commission only tracked students who attended Maryland colleges and universities. About 36 percent of those who go on to college attend out-of-state schools.

Also, the study doesn't account for the differences among colleges, which have various ways of deciding which students have to take remedial classes.

The majority of the Washington County students in the study went to Hagerstown Junior College, now known as Hagerstown Community College.

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