Eastern Elementary scores above average

February 11, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Changes and progress at Eastern Elementary School, in the wake of state attention on its low student test scores, were the focus of a presentation and tour of the school Tuesday.

Principal Kathy Stiles saved until the end of a presentation her best news: While the school used to score regularly at or near the bottom when periodically compared to other county schools' scores, it recently scored above average in reading and math. The scores are from tests taken in late 2003, she said.

The presentation was part of a joint meeting of the Washington County Board of Education, the Hagerstown City Council and the Washington County Commissioners.


After Eastern Elementary fell below state education standards last year, the school board made changes that included assigning a new principal and requiring all teachers to reapply for their jobs. About 50 percent of those teachers were rehired at the school, Stiles said.

Teachers at Eastern and Antietam Academy are paid $5,000 more than teachers at other schools, because they work 2.5 hours more a week, time spent in staff professional development programs, school board member Roxanne Ober said.

Stiles said the professional development programs in the 575-student school has attracted the attention of Maryland Department of Education leaders who are considering making the school a model for professional development. The state would point to Eastern as an example of having good professional development programs, she said.

While Eastern Elementary puts into practice more programs to help students academically, the number of student discipline referrals have dropped 25 percent, Stiles said.

During a tour of the school, elected officials watched as students took part in various activities, including reading.

The school spends 150 to 180 minutes a day on reading and language arts activities, more than most schools, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said. Schools spend a minimum of 90 minutes on those activities, but as recently as three years ago most schools only spent 60 to 90 minutes a day on them, Morgan said.

Increasing time for reading and language activities helps students in all disciplines, Morgan said.

"The more the students read, the better they get," Morgan said.

She said the work to improve education at the school continues despite a change in a state designation.

In September 2003, Eastern was told, after the release of last spring's standardized Maryland School Assessments test scores, that it would be in its second year of "improvement" this year, meaning its scores did not meet state proficiency standards for three consecutive years.

School officials said they discovered that the area in which Eastern had the poorest showing on the spring 2003 exam was in special education, and that was related to a homeless student who left the school in the midst of the examination period.

The school appealed the state's decision, and in November the state changed the school's designation.

The state still considers the school to be below state standards, but has removed it from the "improvement" category. That means the school need not provide costly tutoring services for its students this school year, as it otherwise would have had to do.

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