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Steps to better student performance presented

January 21, 2004|By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday was presented with recommended steps to improve student performance.

The recommendations were prompted in part by the results of last year's High School Assessments scores.

County scores from the statewide tests administered last January and May were released last week and presented to the board Tuesday. The tests are a series of state standardized end-of-course exams in biology, government, algebra I, geometry and English 9.

Sandra Graff, supervisor of secondary science, told the board some students will be encouraged to delay taking biology courses until 10th grade -- after they improve related skills, including language arts, in the ninth grade.

The change was one of many listed as "future initiatives" in a presentation on the county scores.

Some of the changes already have been approved by the board but not implemented; others were shared with the board for the first time Tuesday, Board President Edward Forrest said.

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The initiatives are not a response to the test scores but are intended to improve education, schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said. But, she said, "Through the tests we are guaranteeing to the public that the Maryland state diploma has some real meaning."

Washington County Public Schools students scored better than the state average in the four areas tested by the High School Assessments. Out of the 24 school systems in the state, Washington County's ranked second in algebra, eighth in English, 10th in government and 13th in biology.

Officials praised the algebra scores while expressing concern about the English scores.

Under preliminary plans being considered by the Maryland State Department of Education, high school students would need to pass all four areas of the High School Assessments to graduate. While county students are required to take the test, first administered in 2002, they are not required to pass it.

Board member Princeton Young expressed concern that students might pass a course but fail the test due to test anxiety. If the state proposal is adopted, students would be required to take the test again at a later time.

The weakest scores locally and statewide were in English. About 60 percent of county students did not pass the English portion of the test, school officials said.

"We are not pleased with this result," Michael told the board. "But a lot of jurisdictions have a long way to go as well."

Peggy Pugh, supervisor of second English/language arts, said employees are trying to determine why the students did not do as well as hoped.

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