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Restructured schools seeing fruits of labors

April 24, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

Since Washington County Public Schools readvertised teachers' positions at Eastern Elementary School three years ago, state test scores have increased dramatically.

Salaries also have risen - with the restructuring, every teacher and administrator earns $5,000 more a year - but staff members at the school said Thursday the changes are not only reflected in the numbers.

"I just think that everybody here, something that's very important, they all have the highest expectations of kids," said Julie Stouffer, a student achievement specialist.

The Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve extending for one year a reform model at Eastern and Antietam Academy that puts emphasis on extra professional development. Bester Elementary School and the math and English departments at South Hagerstown High School are in their first years of the model, which next year will be used at Winter Street Elementary School and Western Heights Middle School.

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Teachers at the schools earn $5,000 a year extra to compensate for 2 1/2 hours a week of extra meetings.

According to figures provided by staff, Antietam and Eastern employ more than 60 teachers and administrators.

"We had several people say that if it wasn't going to continue, they were going to try to go somewhere that did have the extra professional development because now they felt strongly that that's a key component to their job," Eastern Principal Lisa Kirkham said.

In 2003, fewer than 45 percent of Eastern's third-graders demonstrated proficiency on a state reading test, and only 48 percent of fifth-graders demonstrated proficiency on a state math test.

Last year, 76 percent of third-graders and more than 61 percent of fifth-graders demonstrated proficiency on those tests. Despite the improvement, that score still is lower than average. Statewide, almost 70 percent of fifth-graders showed proficiency on the math test.

As a teacher at Eastern for five years, Lori Ridgely said she has seen improvement at the school.

"I think what it has done for our school, it has given us a clean focus. Everybody is on the same page," Ridgely said.

According to Carol Costello, coordinator of alternative programs and student services, the program has helped teachers better reach students at Antietam Academy, an alternative placement for troubled students.

"The home schools say that these kids are coming back very well-prepared. Not only is their behavior improving, but they're coming back prepared instructionally, as well," Costello said Friday.

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