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World class schools? Numbers say yes

August 10, 2008|By Russell Williams

The Washington County public school system proudly proclaims that it is a world-class school system. For this claim to be valid there would have to be some evidence that the Washington County public school system is among the best of the best. Evidence is available to support that amazing statement. What is even more amazing is that the Washington County public school system has achieved this high status while teaching students coming from families that are not among the best educated, richest, healthiest and most stable families in the state.

What are some of the accomplishments of the Washington County public school system? The Washington County public school system has, in the past few years, accomplished many noteworthy things and received many accolades.

The state school superintendent has characterized the Washington County public school system as the poster child for "No Child Left Behind. The Washington County public school system has had six high schools listed as among the top 100 in the nation. The Washington County public school system has two high schools that are among the top 5 percent for advanced placement and international baccalaureate test takers. The Maryland public school system ranks among the top three state educational systems and the Washington County school system is one of the four most successful school systems in the state.

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I frequently read complaints that the United States school system does not teach the sciences as well as school systems in other countries, yet the Washington County public school system students in the International Baccalaureate Program mathematically did better than the best and the brightest of the rest of the world. In other words the Washington County public school system is one of the best of the best and therefore can justifiably claim to be a world-class public school system.

All of this achievement is even more remarkable when we examine the demographics of Washington County. Among Maryland counties Washington County ranks in the low group in child well-being. Washington County ranks in the low group in the category of children entering school ready to learn. Washington County ranks in the lowest group in children safe in families and communities in Maryland. Washington County ranks in the lowest group in stable and economically independent families in Maryland. Yet in spite of all these problems, the Washington County public school system ranks in the highest group in children successful in school in Maryland. This serves as further justification for the Washington County public school system calling itself a world-class public school system.

Could it be that Washington County public schools do so well because they spend more money per-pupil than any other county in the state? That is not the case. Montgomery County spends $12,647 per pupil, while Washington County public schools spend $9,127 per pupil. The Washington County public school per-pupil expenditure is third from the bottom in the state. In a class of 22 students, Washington County public schools have $77,000 less in resources than Montgomery County does and yet Washington County is among the top four school systems in Maryland and Montgomery County is not one of the other three top school systems in Maryland. So, having less money per pupil, and a population that has many social and economic problems the Washington County school system has become one of the best of the best.

I think that all of the above provides ample evidence that the Washington County public school system is justified in calling itself a world-class public school system.

Such an outcome could only have come from a staff that, at all levels, is striving to be world class. As this school year starts again parents can be both proud and confident that their children will be attending a system that is striving and approaching or at world-class public school system status. Please be sure to tell your child's teacher how happy you are that your child can attend schools in this county and be taught by teachers in this county.

Russell Williams is a resident of Hagerstown.

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