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Schools due praise for 2004 assessment scores

September 17, 2004

Knowing that Maryland students will have to pass a High School Assessment Test to graduate as part of the class of 2009, school systems all over the state have been pushing hard to improve their performance on that exam. Apparently the effort is paying off.

On Tuesday, officials of the Washington County school system released results that show that pupils' scores went up for all four categories tested - algebra, biology, English and government.

More significant, their scores topped the state averages in all but English - even though the local scores in that area rose by 10.6 percent above the 2003 mark.

Those performances made Washington County one of 20 of the state's 24 school districts to improve student performance in all four subjects.

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The local results were as follows:

- Algebra, a 75.9 pass rate, up 7.2 percent from 2003.

- Biology, a 64.2 pass rate, up 6.6 percent from 2003.

- English, a 51.8 percent pass rate, up 10.6 percent from 2003, and

- Government, a 66.7 pass rate, a 6.4 percent increase from the 2003 school year.

So how did the system achieve this improvement?

By designing curricula around the tests, according to Boyd Michael, director of secondary education. Michael also said the system added "student achievement specialists" in math and English who work with both pupils and teachers.

That said, it also seems clear that the School Board, teachers and administrators have all bought into the arguments made by Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

Morgan has told educators that because of the High School Assessments and the requirements of the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, it will no longer be acceptable to excuse poor student performance by citing pupils' impoverished backgrounds or troubled family situations.

We do realize, as noted by State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick on Tuesday, that if 75 percent of students pass a test, that means 25 percent didn't.

Clearly, there's still work to be done. But based on the results issued Tuesday, local schools and their students are heading in the right direction.

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