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School officials confident in system

December 27, 2001

School officials confident in system



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


While the content of the proposed education bill that includes testing third- through eighth-graders across the nation in math and reading is not yet known, Washington County Board of Education officials say they're not worrying about how well their students would perform.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to meet the expectations," said Boyd J. Michael III, director of secondary education.

Michael said the content of the reading and math tests has not been released, but he thinks the tests will measure basic skills.

The bill, which President George W. Bush has pushed as one of his top priorities, passed the House on Thursday. The Senate will consider the bill on Tuesday.

The education plan authorizes $26.5 billion next year for elementary and secondary education, which is about $8 billion more than this year and about $4 billion more than Bush requested, but nearly $6 billion less than Senate Democrats wanted. The bill also includes giving schools nearly $1 billion a year for the next five years to help make sure children can read by third grade.

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"Any money that we can add on to our budget is going to be a plus," School Board member J. Herbert Hardin said.

Under the plan, third- through eighth-graders would have to take annual tests in math and reading. Students' performance on the tests would affect how much federal aid their schools would be given and how it would be spent.

Schools that score consistently low on the tests would have to allocate some of their federal dollars to students for tutoring or transportation to another public school. The schools whose tests scores don't improve for two years in a row would receive more aid, but if the scores still don't improve afterward, a school's staff could be changed.

Federal aid could be taken away from schools that don't improve for five years in a row.

Hardin said those sanctions will probably only apply to failing schools in urban areas.

"I don't think we're going to run into that problem here," Hardin said. "Our teachers and our schools are doing a very good job. I think if George Bush and his wife walked into our schools in Washington County, they would be well-pleased with every one of our schools."

Interim School Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she supports holding schools accountable for their performance, as long as the federal government doesn't try to take over state or local curricula.

"I believe education should be left up to the local jurisdiction, because not all counties are the same," Morgan said. "I don't want to see us dumbed down by this."

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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