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Schools to appeal assessment scores

July 14, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

karenh@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools officials today plan to appeal scores that prevented Smithsburg Middle School from making a federal standard of progress earlier this summer.

According to Patricia Abernethy, deputy superintendent for instruction, five special education students at Smithsburg might have qualified to take a modified version of the Maryland School Assessment, if one had been offered. The school failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress because of low reading scores among special education students.

The school's AYP status could be changed if the system's appeal is upheld, Abernethy said. The system's other elementary and middle schools all made the standard, according to test scores released earlier this summer. High school results will be released later this year.

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Ronald Peiffer, deputy state superintendent for academic policy, said Wednesday the Maryland State Department of Education had received "scores of appeals" from schools challenging their results.

Most appeals related to special education students, Peiffer said.

"It's all rooted in getting fair and accurate information back to the schools on how they're doing," Peiffer said.

The deadline for appeals is today, Abernethy said. The system's appeal, which includes information about the students' school performance and special needs, will be delivered by hand, Abernethy said.

An alternative test already is available to the most severely disabled 1 percent of students, Abernethy said.

Peiffer said the U.S. Department of Education has given states the go-ahead to create modified exams for students who face severe challenges but not do not qualify for the alternative exams. Those exams might be offered to students next year, Peiffer said.

"The idea of this is to make this fair," Peiffer said.

According to Peiffer, the No. 1 reason schools fail to make AYP is poor performance among special education students. AYP is determined by the performance of all students, as well as groups of students, including minority and low-income students, on state tests. Schools that fail to make AYP can face state sanctions, Peiffer said.

The measurement helps schools know how they are doing, Peiffer said.

"AYP is just supposed to be a guide of what they're supposed to be working on, but unfortunately, it translates into whether they get kudos or a black eye," Peiffer said.

Overall, about three-fourths of Smithsburg's sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders passed their reading tests last year.

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