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Morgan outlines effects of No Child Left Behind

March 13, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Teaching students to score ahead of the learning curve expected under the federal No Child Left Behind act touches on every area of the Washington County Board of Education's budget and master plan, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan told an audience of the Washington County League of Women Voters Wednesday night.

In an address held at Springfield Middle School, Morgan outlined the requirements, impact and consequences the No Child Left Behind act will have, not only on the school system, but on the county as a whole in the coming years.

She showed the 13-member audience a series of charts and graphs on Washington County and its education trends inside and outside the school system. State and federal standardized test scores reflected Washington County students were performing in sixth place compared to the other 23 Maryland school districts, but that county residents are living with more poverty and less education than the school systems its students are outperforming.

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Under No Child Left Behind, if one school is considered a failing school then the entire school system is considered a failure, a circumstance that would greatly impact economic development in the county, she said.

League of Women Voters member Cookie McDowell, of Hagerstown, said she was concerned the Washington County Commissioners budget shortfall would handicap the School Board's education plans.

"The well is going to dry up at some point," she said.

Morgan agreed that the money the school system needs to fund the federal initiative is on shaky ground, but said school officials have been looking into other ways to raise the money No Child Left Behind will require - projected to be $33 million through 2014.

The County Commissioners "have a good understanding that No Child Left Behind is not an 'oh, we just don't have enough money,'" Morgan said.

She said a lot of the school system's funding will depend on whether state lawmakers approval slots.

"If they don't, then all bets are off," she said. Morgan said she has no position on whether slots are a viable revenue source.

After the meeting, Debra Swain, of Hagerstown, who has two children at Smithsburg High School, said because the presentation gave her a better understanding of the intricacies of the federal act. She said she had concerns about maintaining highly qualified teachers, an act requirement that might force veteran teachers to go back to school for extra training.

"I'd hate to lose these really good teachers," she said.

Morgan said the school system plans to focus more attention on after-school programs, tutoring, summer school and specialized textbooks and programs that will help to accelerate a student's comprehension of some difficult concepts.

"Some kids just need a lot more time," she said.

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