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Schools' report card mixed

August 23, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

While Washington County Public Schools students either met or exceeded the state averages on a new assessment test in all tested grade levels, the school system fell short of meeting the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The information, part of the 2003 Maryland Report Card, was released Friday by the Maryland State Department of Education.

No school system met all of the proficiency standards required to achieve adequate yearly progress in reading and math, but Carroll, Somerset, St. Mary's and Washington counties all missed by only one category - special education.

Washington County Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the school system can feel good about coming close to being proficient in all areas, but school officials have more work to do.

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"I think we can do it," Morgan said. "I feel extremely optimistic, and I have a lot of confidence in our staff."

No Child Left Behind forces school systems to measure the achievement of all student populations, such as racial groups, special education students and low-income students, and other categories, including graduation and attendance rates.

If a school consistently underperforms in one or more of the 38 categories, it may face consequences, including providing school choice to students, replacing school staff or being taken over by the state.

Maryland created the Maryland School Assessments as the main tool in measuring student achievement and school accountability. The assessments replaced the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP).

The new test was given for the first time in March to students in third, fifth, eighth and 10th grades in math and reading. Student performance is categorized as basic, proficient or advanced.

Basic means a student isn't performing at grade level and is not meeting state standards. Proficient means a student is meeting state standards and is achieving at an appropriate grade level.

Advanced means a student is exceeding standards and performing at a high level of achievement, according to the state Department of Education.

The tests measure the yearly progress of school systems, and all students will have to post proficient scores by 2014, according to the No Child Left Behind law.

Washington County students performed better than the state averages in every grade on the tests, but came up short in the performance of special education students in reading.

Five of the county's schools - Clear Spring and Eastern elementary schools, E. Russell Hicks and Northern middle schools and South Hagerstown High School - failed to meet the proficient standard in reading for its special education students.

Clear Spring Elementary School also did not meet the proficiency level in math.

Washington County school officials said they are planning an aggressive approach to improving the school system's special education program.

Deputy Superintendent for Instruction Patricia Abernethy said school officials will analyze the individualized learning plans given to special education students, make sure they are getting challenging courses and boost professional development for special education students among other plans.

"We are clearly running on a straight point for improvement," Abernethy said. "We just will not stop until every child is as successful as they could be. We hope to be there much sooner than 2014."

Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Garrett, Harford, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne's and Worcester counties each missed an adequate yearly progress designation by two criteria.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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