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Middle school wins test appeal

August 16, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Smithsburg Middle School, the only middle or elementary school in Washington County that failed to meet a federal standard of performance, has won its appeal of five students' scores on the 2004-05 Maryland State Assessment.

According to a letter from State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick to Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, the state upheld the system's appeal of test scores for five special-education students at Smithsburg.

In its appeal, the system showed that despite extensive interventions, the students have not been able to perform at grade level, but they might have succeeded if a modified version of the test had been available, said Carol Ann Baglin, assistant state superintendent of special education.

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"For those few students who struggle so to meet the requirements or even try to meet the requirements, this just kind of gives us the chance to recognize the fact that they have worked so hard," Smithsburg Principal Deidre Shumaker said Monday.

Based on the appeal, Smithsburg's passage rates for special-education students rose from 36.3 percent to 41.3 percent, high enough to make Adequate Yearly Progress, Grasmick said in the letter.

Though Smithsburg's rating has been refigured, Shumaker said school staff members know they must do better to "do everything it takes" for students.

"We don't want to be in this situation next year," she said.

The state and federal governments track the performance of schools' entire populations and subgroups of students on the exams. Subgroups include racial and ethnic minorities, special-education students and low-income students.

Schools that fail to make AYP two years in a row can face sanctions, according to the State Department of Education.

According to Baglin, only students who make up the most severely disabled 1 percent of the population are eligible for alternative assessments.

She said the state received more than 1,000 appeals from 19 school systems contesting the results of students whose disabilities, though severe, were not enough for them to qualify for those assessments.

According to Baglin, the state is awaiting direction from the federal government about how to craft a test for students who are slightly less disabled than those who qualify for the alternative assessments.

The state approved about two-thirds of schools' appeals of the special-education results, Baglin said. She did not know how many appeals the state approved on other aspects of the tests or how many schools made AYP based on the approval of an appeal.

"It's not that straightforward for all the schools, and it's very good it worked out for them," Baglin said.

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