Smithsburg Middle falls short of reading standard

June 21, 2005|by KAREN HANNA


Smithsburg Middle School has been designated as "Needing Local Attention" after it failed to achieve a federal reading standard for special-education students.

According to results released Monday, the school was the only one of Washington County Public Schools' elementary and middle schools that failed this year to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress as measured by the Maryland School Assessment.

Officials said they plan to continue improvement initiatives at Boonsboro Middle and Bester Elementary schools, which both rebounded from failing to meet the standards last year.


"There's still a lot of room for improvement with test scores for student success; however, I will say this year, I think we started the momentum," said Joanne Hilton, principal at Bester, where teachers this year had to reapply for their jobs.

Smithsburg Middle principal Deidre Shumaker said the school plans to appeal the AYP ruling, since some of the special-education students who took the MSA earlier this year might have qualified for a modified version of the test.

"We identified some students that we feel need to be reconsidered, and we will be filing an appeal," Shumaker said Monday.

AYP is a measurement of schools' performance in 19 categories, including the reading and math scores of Hispanic, black, Asian and special-education students.

According to Patricia Abernethy, deputy superintendent for instruction for the county school system, the AYP targets for elementary school students in each category are passage rates of 57.8 percent on the reading tests and 53.6 percent on the math tests.

She said the targets for middle school students are passage rates of 56.7 percent on the reading tests and 35.8 percent on the math tests.

According to the No Child Left Behind law, schools must achieve 100 percent passing rates by 2014, Abernethy said.

Just 27 of Smithsburg's 81 special-education students (33.3 percent) who took the tests scored on grade level or above for reading. The state is considering developing a modified version of the MSA for students whose disabilities are not severe enough to qualify them to take an alternative exam, Abernethy said.

Schools may appeal the results of students who might have taken those tests, Abernethy said.

"They're the students who don't qualify for the alt-MSA, but who would have - and who have - tremendous challenges performing work at grade level," Shumaker said. "They are the kinds of kids that have fallen through the cracks in this whole No Child Left Behind process."

Overall, 83 percent of Smithsburg's sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students scored on grade level or above on both the state's reading and math tests.

Abernethy said the school system must continue to focus on the performance of subgroups of its students on the state tests.

"That's the challenge of No Child Left Behind. You have to maintain the progress of all groups, while picking up the progress of lagging groups," Abernethy said.

According to Abernethy, the extra interventions will continue at Bester.

"The fact that they made AYP this year, it's good for them. It's a B-12 shot ... it does not mean that they have the strength to maintain it," Abernethy said.

If Bester failed to make AYP this year, parents would have had the option of busing their children elsewhere at the school system's expense, Abernethy said.

Hilton won't be back at Bester next year. She's retiring after 35 years.

"I think the staff that was here can leave here feeling they made a difference," Hilton said.

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