Morgan: Schools take steps to become world-class system

April 12, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County Public Schools are doing "very well" and taking visible steps toward becoming a world-class school system, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said after Wednesday morning's State of Education address in Hagerstown.

The annual event is hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

"I think we have some lofty goals," she said. "Are we (a world-class school system) yet? No. Are we making progress? Absolutely."

School system staff members made the presentation on the state of education in Washington County before a group of about 50 at Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway. They touted rising test scores, increased ranking in the state and new school buildings scheduled to open in 2008.

Staff members said that students' test scores are rising even as they face increased rigors in the classroom.

Donna Hanlin, assistant superintendent for secondary instruction, said more students are staying in school and graduating.

In 2006, the dropout rate for the school system was 2.18 percent, according to state data - about .3 percent higher than in 2005, when the rate was 1.87 percent. In 2004, the school system had a 2.21 percent dropout rate.


In 2006, the graduation rate for Washington County Public Schools seniors was 90.48 percent, according to state data - about .8 percent lower than in 2005. In 2004, the school system had a 86.58 percent graduation rate.

Washington County ranks No. 1 in the state in attendance at the elementary, middle and high school levels, Hanlin said. The school system was also No. 1 in the state on the 2006 high school algebra assessment.

Hanlin said achievement on the SAT is an area where officials would like to see additional growth.

Students' average verbal score in 2006 was 491, two points higher than in the previous year, but 14 points lower than in 2004, when verbal scores were at a three-year high, officials have said. The students' average math score in 2006 was 519, eight points higher than in 2005, but four points lower than in 2004.

Washington County Public Schools also saw a 2 percent drop in the number of graduates who took the SAT, officials have said. Thirty-five fewer graduates took the SAT in 2006 than the 734 who took the test in 2005. In 2004, 725 graduates took the college placement exam.

More Advanced Placement exams were taken in 2006 than in any previous year, according to data released last year. Seven-hundred-and-fifty students took 1,365 exams. More exams - 630 - received a score of a 3 or higher in 2006 than in any previous year. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5.

During the State of Education address Wednesday, school system staff members said that for the second consecutive year, all elementary, middle and high schools in Washington County achieved state and federal standards on assessment exams.

While all schools individually met adequate yearly progress standards, as measured by the state, the school system overall failed to meet one mark, for reading among special-education high school students. A state official said late last year that the county's high schools, as a group, did not make adequate yearly progress based on failure to meet the mark among the special-education subgroup.

JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, assistant superintendent for elementary instruction, said there are a number of accomplishments not related to test scores, like implementing full-day kindergarten programs, adding additional magnet programs and community involvement initiatives.

Brien J. Poffenberger, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said education and the business community are partners, and the desire is for Washington County's well-educated students to remain in the area.

"Today's student is tomorrow's worker," he said.

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