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County math scores lead state

December 21, 2000

County math scores lead state



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Eighth-graders in Washington County Public Schools had the highest math scores in the state on the 1999-2000 MSPAP, a feat administrators say should be credited to the teachers.

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Sixty-eight percent of the students had satisfactory scores on the test, up from 63 percent in the 1998-99 school year. The new number is just below the state's standard to have 70 percent of students score on the satisfactory level, and Washington County Board of Education administrators think students can reach that mark next year.

The grading system is on a five-point scale. A score of 1, 2, or 3 is below satisfactory while 5 is considered to be excellent. A 4 is considered satisfactory. Scores indicate the percentage of students who got a 4 or better.

"The teachers are working so hard," said Leslie Hobbs, the board's supervisor of secondary math. "They are just going above and beyond. They really care so much about the kids and their success."

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Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett praised teachers for their efforts. He also credited Hobbs, school principals and Deputy Superintendent Theresa Flak with helping to put the curriculum in place.

But Whitney Loy, an 8th-grade math teacher at Northern Middle School, was hesitant about teachers taking too much credit for the record performance. She said teachers were partly responsible and that the school system's organized and efficient math curriculum also played a role.

"The curriculum totally matched what was tested," Loy said. "I think it's good. It totally prepares them for high school and college." Loy is in her second year of teaching.

Eighth-graders learn probability, solving equations, linear equations, integers and graphing, among other topics.

Hobbs said the board and teachers have been working for about five years to improve and align the curriculum throughout the school system.

Also, one summer teachers came up with the idea to form "common chapter tests" for all classes in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, Hobbs said. This means, for example, each sixth-grade class will receive the same test at the end of a chapter as other sixth-grade classes.

All classes also use the same textbooks that contain the same curriculum which is on the MSPAPs. Bartlett said the aligned curriculum leads all students in the same direction.

"We used to have 45 schools going in 45 different directions," he said.

The implementation of 90-minute math courses gives students more time to work on math problems and improve skills, Hobbs said.

Beginning in sixth grade, students also work on a series of math activities at the end of every chapter, which resemble MSPAP problems.

"That's so when they get to the MSPAPs, they're not surprised," Hobbs said.

Without good teachers, however, Hobbs said the lessons would not get across.

"If the teachers didn't do the work, it wouldn't be happening," she said. "The teachers are saying, 'We're going to make it happen.' They are inspiring the students."

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