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All but four schools make adequate progress

November 02, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - All but four Washington County elementary and middle schools made adequate yearly progress (AYP) in 2008, according to benchmarks set by the state.

The four schools that failed to meet those standards in at least one area are Fountaindale School for the Arts & Academic Excellence and E. Russell Hicks, Springfield and Western Heights middle schools, according to data provided by the Maryland State Department of Education.

The progress is measured by success on Maryland School Assessments. The elementary and middle school data released by the Maryland State Department of Education does not include Hancock Middle-Senior High School, which will be included in high school data expected to be available in the next month.

To meet the adequate yearly progress benchmark, schools must achieve established objectives that put them on track to meet 100 percent proficiency standards in reading and math by 2014.

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The schools did not meet those standards for the number of students achieving proficiency in reading and math. Fountaindale, E. Russell Hicks and Springfield did not meet the target among special education students taking the English exam, according to state data. Those schools, which all made AYP last year, are now labeled as "in need of local attention."

Western Heights

Western Heights Middle School did not meet targets in five out of seven reading categories, including among African-Americans, students receiving free or reduced-price meals, special education students and students with limited English proficiency. The school also failed to meet its goal among all students, and among special education students taking the math exam.

Washington County is one of only six Maryland school districts to have a school fail to hit a goal among all students, according to state data.

This is the second consecutive year that Western Heights had not made AYP, and the school is now listed as "in need of school improvement." As part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, a two-year improvement plan for the school is implemented, and Dave Reeder, director of middle school education, said that plan is expected to be provided to state officials soon.

"We've put a lot of supports in there to help them this year," he said. "It's not something that just sprang on us. We've been working with Western Heights for a period of time."

A technical support team formed this year that is meeting monthly with school staff to review progress, offer instructional expertise and offer resources, Reeder said.

The overall approach is to change the culture at Western Heights to one where students view learning as fun and as something that is never-ending, Reeder said. The learning day was extended for students who need it, and after-school tutoring is offered until at least 4 p.m. Students, teachers and others also are reading the same book to create a common point of reference, he said.

Additional staff has been added at Western Heights - one to work with English language learners and another to teach special education students, Reeder said.

French was added as a foreign language option there, which Reeder said will add to the culture that promotes rigorous study.

High schools

Assistant Superintendent Boyd Michael said that AYP results for the county's high schools had not been released by the Maryland State Department of Education, but local officials were predicting that all high schools would make AYP. Those official results are expected to be released within the next month.

Michael denied allegations continued in a letter that said the school system has not been forthcoming about its AYP results and test scores.

The letter was sent by a local resident to Washington County Board of Education members, the County Commissioners and others.

The letter from Bob Brady, a local parent, said that the school system's academic performance in 2008 was not reported publicly, and that the "little that has been released appears to be less that objective in nature and certainly less than complete."

School system officials said a full academic report to the Board of Education was scheduled to take place during a public meeting in October. That report was postponed when the state Department of Education delayed the release of some information, including AYP data for high schools, which is not yet available, and High School Assessment (HSA) information, which was released last week.

HSA data is typically released in late summer.

State schools spokesman William Reinhard said that local school systems received achievement data in July, but state officials have "spent the past few months double checking the data and coming up with a new type of data file we haven't used before."

Reinhard said this year's data is being reported in a new way because the graduating class of 2009 is the first group of students required to pass HSA exams to receive a high school diploma.

"We're just being sure the data we have was correct," Reinhard said.




County schools that fell short

As defined by the Maryland State Department of Education, adequate yearly progress is the gain that schools, school systems and states must make each year in the proportion of students achieving proficiency in reading and math. The following elementary and middle schools in Washington County did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress in 2008 in at least one area.

· Fountaindale School for the Arts & Academic Excellence

· E. Russell Hicks Middle School

· Springfield Middle School

· Western Heights Middle School

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