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Schools work to improve

Designated as low performing Title 1 schools, Hancock and Eastern elementary schools are taking steps to improve student scores

Designated as low performing Title 1 schools, Hancock and Eastern elementary schools are taking steps to improve student scores

June 20, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

As school officials work to rub the low-performing label off Hancock and Eastern elementary schools, only three Washington County students are taking advantage of a policy that allows students to transfer from those schools.

Hancock and Eastern elementary schools were designated low-performing Title I schools last year after the schools posted consecutive years of declining School Performance Index scores. The SPI scores are based on attendance and Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) scores. According to school system figures, Hancock improved its SPI score while Eastern's score dropped in the 2000-2001 school year, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Schools can drop the low-performing label by improving SPI scores for two consecutive years, but while the schools are considered low-performing Title I schools the students must be given the chance to transfer.

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Title I is a federal program that gives additional grant money to schools with relatively high numbers of students receiving free or reduced lunches at a school. In Washington County, 10 elementary schools are Title I schools.

At Hancock and Eastern, teachers have spent more time in training workshops in an effort to improve student performance.

Eastern now has a homework club for students, and has hired a technical assistant to repair computers.

Hancock had one of the most improved SPI scores in the county from 2000 to 2001, according to school system figures.

Eastern was one of three schools at which the SPI dropped from 2000 to 2001.

For the second year, no students are transferring from Hancock and three students are transferring from Eastern, said William Abbott, supervisor of federal programs.

Principals at both schools and Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the low number of transfers shows that parents think the school is headed in the right direction.

Hancock Principal Donna Newcomer-Coble said the low-performing label is "one of those things that's hard for us to deal with," because it does not mean that Hancock is one of the worst schools.

Hancock's SPI scores have been higher than several other county Title I schools in recent years, but it received the low-performing designation because its scores went down.

Newcomer-Coble said the designation was good in a way because it focused attention on the downward trend at Hancock. To address that trend, Newcomer-Coble said they are focusing on teacher training at Hancock.

Anita Kelly, president of the Hancock Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association, said she thinks the school is improving.

Eastern Elementary School PTA President Aaron Kelly said the SPI has unfairly given Eastern a bad reputation.

"As far as I can tell the school is good," said Kelly, who is not related to Anita Kelly.

Timothy Abe, who will be the new principal at Eastern in the coming school year, said he plans to confer with staff at Eastern to determine what they should do to reverse the SPI trend.

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