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School improvement plan extended

April 19, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

A three-year plan to turn around disappointing scores at two Washington County public schools has gotten a one-year extension.

Just weeks after announcing it was restructuring Western Heights Middle and Winter Street Elementary schools, the Board of Education voted at its meeting Tuesday to approve a fourth year of extended hours for teachers at Antietam Academy and Eastern Elementary School. The schools were the first to undergo dramatic changes as part of improvement efforts.

Teachers at Antietam and Eastern, who had to reapply for their positions when the schools were restructured, will continue to receive an extra $5,000 to compensate for extra hours at the schools next year, Deputy Superintendent for Instruction Patricia Abernethy said.

According to the system's contract with the Washington County Teachers Association, the reform efforts, which include extra hours and professional development, might last up to three years, and both parties must agree to extensions, Abernethy said.

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Abernethy said after the meeting that while Antietam and Eastern have made improvements, she is not sure how soon the schools can go back to regular hours for teachers.

"I'm not sure it's a question of when it will be a good time to pull out. It may be a question of when will every school have the additional planning time that it needs," Abernethy said after the meeting.

Board Vice President Jacqueline B. Fischer, board member Roxanne R. Ober and student representative Usama Qadri all were absent for the board's unanimous vote.

Since 2003, the first year of restructuring, Eastern's scores on state tests generally have improved, according to information provided by the Maryland State Department of Education. In 2003, less than 45 percent of third-graders demonstrated proficiency on state reading tests, and only 48 percent of fifth-graders demonstrated proficiency on state math tests. Last year, more than 61 percent of fifth-graders and 76 percent of third-graders demonstrated proficiency on those tests.

Besides Eastern and Winter Street elementary schools and Antietam Academy and Western Heights Middle School, Bester Elementary School and South Hagerstown High School also have experienced restructuring. Bester's staff and teachers in the math and English departments at South High are finishing their first year at the schools since reapplying for their jobs last year.

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