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County school system celebrates test results

July 21, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

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HAGERSTOWN -- Every public elementary and middle school in Washington County met this year's proficiency standard for state testing, school district officials announced Tuesday.

Also, the school system set records for scores in 12 areas -- each grade from 3 through 8, in both math and reading.

Several schools posted their best scores ever in reading, math or both.

One was Smithsburg Middle School's 93.7 percent proficiency in reading and 92.5 percent in math, which are record highs for the county.

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Pleasant Valley Elementary School earned a county-record 98 percent in math.

Other schools showed noticeable improvement since last year:

o Western Heights Middle School rose 14.1 percentage points in reading and 9.6 points in math.

o Winter Street Elementary School improved 9.9 points in reading.

o Cascade Elementary School was up 9.2 points in reading and 9.4 points in math.

"To say that we were thrilled would be a monumental understatement," Wayne D. Ridenour, the Washington County Board of Education's president, said during a news conference and celebration at the board office.

School officials said Washington County appears to be one of just three public school systems in the state, out of 24, in which every elementary and middle school met Adequate Yearly Progress.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools must meet standards of proficiency that increase each year.

Maryland State Assessment reading and math exams, given to students in grades 3 through 8, determine Adequate Yearly Progress.

The 2009 standards are 76.5 percent of elementary students showing proficiency in reading and 74.2 percent in math.

The minimum proficiency rates in middle school are 75.9 percent in reading and 64.3 percent in math.

Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael said the rates increase 5 to 7 percent each year until 2013-2014, when all students are expected to be proficient.

Earlier in the day, state officials said Maryland's elementary and middle school students as a group have improved their standardized test scores seven years in a row, The Associated Press reported.

High school students take separate assessment tests. Those results are announced at a different time.

In Washington County, Ridenour and Ruth Anne Callaham, the school board's vice president, spread praise to administrators, teachers and support staff who contributed to the school system's elementary- and middle-school success.

Ridenour said after the news conference that the board set lofty goals, then stepped back and let employees do their jobs.

In recent years, as underperforming schools, Winter Street and Western Heights have been part of a district improvement program, which Bester Elementary School and Eastern Elementary School have completed.

It's a "natural conclusion" that extra attention to those schools, including more time for staff training, has paid off, said Mike Markoe, the district's assistant superintendent for elementary education.

Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr, who left a commissioners' meeting to attend the test-result announcement, called it "record-breaking news."

He said Fortune 500 companies that consider relocating to Washington County first ask about the quality of the school system.

The school district and the county, which funds much of the district's budget, have worked well together in recent years, Barr said.

The county challenges the school system with details and expectations, rather than just handing over money, he said.

Asked if the new test results fulfill expectations, Barr said, "Absolutely. There's no doubt about it. Nothing is more important than public safety and education."

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan is away this week but a school system news release quoted her saying, "I'm very proud of our entire school system for working as a team to achieve this great accomplishment. These kinds of results are only possible because of the dedicated collaboration of our faculty, staff and administrators."

Michael said the news is quite good, but there's room for improvement.

"While we celebrate today, we get back to work tomorrow," he said.

On the Web:



To see state, county and individual school results, go to www.mdreportcard.org

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