Why school restructuring is necessary

May 08, 2006|by EDWARD FORREST / President, Board of Education

Editor's note: On the second Monday of each month, Washington County Board of Education members and school staff will use this space to write about school system issues. This month's column is written by Edward Forrest, president of the Board of Education.

No matter what opinions people may have about the federal No Child Left Behind law, one positive thing is that it has compelled school boards across the country to look ever more carefully at individual school and student academic progress. NCLB requires 100 percent proficiency for all student groups by the year 2014. The challenge then becomes what to do about schools where children are not making the academic progress they should.

Fortunately, Washington County Public Schools has created a successful model to address this problem. The model involves a process we call "school restructuring" and begins with identification of any school not demonstrating needed progress; not attaining their annual measurable objectives; or in danger of being designated for improvement by the Maryland State Department of Education.


Multiple factors are taken into account when identifying such schools, including data on attendance, suspension, retention, test results in reading and math for all groups of students, county benchmark tests and student work. In addition, school climate, culture and expectations of students are assessed. School and classroom visits are made to look at consistent use of best practices for teaching and learning.

A detailed analysis of school information and student achievement is completed and reviewed by the superintendent, the School Board and the School System Improvement Team, which is made up of teachers and administrators as stipulated by the teachers' contract in Article 7.7B.

Much discussion follows regarding comparative achievement data. Questions are asked and answered to ensure that all information is complete and accurate. After these lengthy deliberations among the parties, a plan is developed for meeting with all staff in the school and assisting them in reapplying for restructured school positions. These new positions entail a longer workday and require participation in intensive professional development and team collaboration to help accelerate improvements in student achievement. Additional compensation of $5,000 is provided to staff for the increased responsibilities and expectations.

This process provides a framework for staff to recommit themselves to the restructured positions. Assistance also is provided to staff who choose to apply for vacancies in other schools. All staff are immediately told that they all have positions for the following school year.

How do we know whether school restructuring works? Eastern Elementary, restructured in 2003, was the first school in the county to complete the process. As a result of the increased time for professional development and team collaboration at Eastern, student achievement has increased dramatically. Recently, Eastern Elementary was recognized by the Maryland State Board of Education for these results.

Bester Elementary and Antietam Academy were restructured for the 2005-06 school year. Winter Street Elementary and Western Heights Middle School are being restructured for the 2006-07 school year. Because of our successful model, other school systems have shown great interest in duplicating the model to accelerate learning in their schools.

As a School Board, we are committed to continually find ways to ensure that all children achieve in school, not merely because NCLB requires it, but because we have been entrusted by the community and its citizens to be the stewards of our children's success.

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