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School's low marks force Board of Ed to pay for tutors

August 19, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools will have to pay for tutoring services for Eastern Elementary School students because the school's state standardized test scores, released Monday, showed it remains a low-performing school.

"I'm not overly surprised," Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said. "I'm just a little disappointed because we have to spend taxpayer dollars on this that we could be putting to better use."

She said the school system anticipated the news from The Maryland State Department of Education. It was for that reason it restructured staff positions at the Hagerstown school over the summer and implemented a state-approved reform model to be used at the school this school year.

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Eastern Elementary has for the past two years been placed in "improvement," meaning its state standardized test scores and attendance rates were below the state-set standards for two consecutive years.

During the past school year, the state required that the school system give Eastern students the option of attending a higher performing school. Three of the four students who took the school system up on the offer were taken by school bus, which cost the school system $12,000, or $4,000 per child, Chris Carter, the school system's director of transportation, has said.

Now Eastern must offer to low-income students the opportunity for extra tutoring or mentoring.

Morgan has said it would cost the school system $1,100 per student to send them to be tutored by a state-approved learning service.

Schools Deputy Superintendent Patricia Abernethy said the school system was required to set aside up to $150,000 to put toward tutoring services in anticipation of the test scores.

There are 605 students enrolled at Eastern Elementary School, according to the state Department of Education Web site. About 50 percent of the school's students qualify for free and reduced priced meals, the same qualifier that the state Department of Education uses to determine a student's eligibility to receive tutoring services, Morgan said.

Abernethy said there are 12 state-approved tutoring services from which the school system may choose when sending Eastern students for extra help. She said parents would be responsible for taking their children to the tutoring center.

The school system hasn't yet chosen a tutoring service, she said, but parents will be notified by letter and phone that the extra tutoring is an option.

Abernethy said at least one tutoring service has a center in Washington County.

"We have to give the parents the choice," she said.

Abernethy said the school system plans to apply to the state to see if it could create its own tutoring service.

Hancock Elementary School, which also was listed as performing below state standards for the past two years, will not be required to offer supplemental tutoring services because its standardized test scores went up. If the school's scores continue to rise next year the school may be taken out of the "improvement" category, Abernethy said.

"It's a challenge for us, but I think we'll meet the challenge," Morgan said.

The state education department on Monday released the Maryland School Assessment results for 144 schools on the state's watch list. That list includes Title I schools, which receive more state and federal funds based on poverty, and schools on the local or state reconstitution list - schools that the state has determined need significant improvement.

Thirteen of the schools that the state education department had been watching made enough progress on the state standardized exam to be taken out of "improvement."

Last month, the state Board of Education set the proficient scores for the Maryland School Assessment tests given to third-, fifth-, eighth-, and 10th-graders, which were administered for the first time in March.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, all students will be required to score at proficient levels beginning in 2014.

The federal act is designed to close the achievement gap between schools and to make sure all students, including disadvantaged groups, are academically proficient.

Individual scores for Maryland students will be distributed to each family by mid-October.

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