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Schools not yet 'world-class,' but progress is being made

October 13, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Washington County Board of Education President Paul Bailey said he was shocked to hear Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, talking about his school system during a convention last month.

Shocked - and pleased.

Bailey shared Bryant's comments about the changing expectations of Washington County Public Schools during a breakfast State of Education address Wednesday at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center Antietam Creek. About 60 business and school leaders gathered to hear a report of how schools are doing.

In her speech, Bryant, who addressed the Maryland Association of Boards of Education Sept. 28, discussed a community-wide forum held a few years ago to gather recommendations for school improvement.

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"Clearly, the conversation had shifted from 'we really shouldn't expect a whole lot from some kids,' to 'how can we make the most of the talents of all our children?'" Bryant said. The National Association of School Boards provided the text of the Sept. 28 speech, which Bailey quoted extensively.

School officials told an audience of about 60 people that schools are improving, but they said they are not done.

Bailey, a retired educator who began teaching in the school system in the 1950s, traced local education's evolution from the use of closed-circuit television about 50 years ago through the implementation of the whole-language and open-space school concepts.

The "most dramatic of all" are changes brought by the No Child Left Behind law, Bailey said. According to Bailey, the board's decisions now stem from two principles - an emphasis on student achievement and a concern for doing what is right for education.

The Board of Education, which created several magnet programs in response to public proposals it collected about five years ago, is ready to start another round of public study groups to discuss ways to improve the school system, Board Vice President Jacqueline Fischer said.

The ideas for new magnet or specialized programs include a foreign-language academy and a school for students considering a career in the armed forces or other areas involving homeland security, she said.

Elizabeth Morgan, who became Washington County Public Schools superintendent five years ago, said she has witnessed a "quiet revolution" in local attitudes toward education that has been accompanied by a period of rising test scores.

As a more affluent population moves into the county, demands for more and better programs for students might also increase, Morgan said. That's a good thing, she said.

Boyd Michael, executive director of secondary education, highlighted rising test scores at the middle- and high-school levels.

"And, I can tell you today, we're not a great school system yet. We're not a world-class school system. There's things that we would like to change, but we've made sure there's progress," Michael said.

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