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Md. schools superintendent gives high marks to county

December 21, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

karenh@herald-mail.com

An emphasis on student achievement sets Washington County Public Schools apart from other school systems in Maryland, State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said in an address Tuesday.

Grasmick praised the school system during a breakfast-hour speech in front of about 60 school, business and community leaders at Robinwood Medical Center. Grasmick, the state superintendent since 1991, discussed student achievement, teacher training and school construction during a speech and question-and-answer session.

The Washington County school system is one of a "small handful" across the state in which all grade levels and categories of students required to take state tests met objectives, Grasmick said. Two-hundred-forty schools in Maryland this year are operating under some level of school-improvement plan to address poor scores. None of them is in Washington County, Grasmick said.

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Schools are graded on students' performance on reading and math tests in a number of grades from elementary school through high school. Schools also are judged on the test performance of individual student groups, such as low-income and special-education students.

According to Grasmick, the state must continue to do a better job eliminating achievement gaps for special-needs students, and it should invest more in its programs for adult and immigrant students. The state also is exploring ways to help growing school systems, such as Washington County, build or renovate school buildings, she said.

In response to a question from the audience, Grasmick told one woman that architects have fought efforts to standardize the design of new buildings, which would save school systems money.

"So that's an issue that needs to be worked out. Is it an issue that deserves pursuing? Absolutely," Grasmick said.

The state's funding formula for school construction dollars likely will be revised, Grasmick told Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

Only about three of the state's 24 school jurisdictions are losing populations. In the rest, students are learning in "villages of relocatables," Grasmick said.

This year's incoming freshmen are the first students who must pass four state tests to graduate, Grasmick said. She cautioned that some school systems might encounter problems meeting the new requirement, but she said the testing program will ensure students across the state are meeting minimum standards to earn their diplomas.

"We believe it was necessary to establish a floor, so we could validate the meaning of the high school diploma," Grasmick said.

Grasmick said she has been impressed with Washington County's efforts.

"Finally, I just want to say if I were choosing a place to live, and I had young children, I would choose Washington County," Grasmick said.

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