School system makes a world class leap with test scores

July 23, 2009

When Washington County was promised a "world class" educational system by school administrators several years ago, more than a few brows were furrowed in doubt.

Fortunately, no one bothered to relay this skepticism to the kids, who accomplished an amazing feat by meeting state performance standards at every single Washington County elementary and middle school, according to state test results announced Tuesday.

Likewise, county teachers, administrators and staff rightly enjoyed a day in the sun as they announced that Washington was one of only three counties statewide to meet proficiency standards systemwide.

The state tests, a key yardstick in measuring performance under the No Child Left Behind Act, track performance in reading and math proficiency, areas where some schools beat state averages by better than 10 percentage points.


Of note was Smithsburg Middle, which turned in a county-record proficiency for middle schools in reading and math of 93.7 percent and 92.5 percent, respectively.

But equally important was the news that some schools that have had difficulty satisfying standards in the past are gaining considerable ground and are now meeting the grade.

Winter Street and Western Heights -- with some improvements at or near double-digit percentage gains -- demonstrate that hard work and focus can indeed turn a troubled school around.

School employees at all levels, along with parents and students, are to be congratulated for their efforts. No Child Left Behind was meant to ensure just that: that no school, no student, could be overlooked or written off simply because the demographic was not considered to be capable of high achievement.

These test scores show that with proper attention, schools -- all schools -- can succeed. That hasn't always been the predominant thinking in mainline education or among the county populace.

Needless to say, some who are disinclined to give the school board credit for anything will try to parse the numbers and look for cracks or signs of weakness. That might have been an easy job five years ago, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.

Based on test scores, it is hard to conclude that Washington County schools are not striding confidently in the right direction.

Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael took the time to celebrate -- briefly. "We get back to work tomorrow," he said.

That's the right attitude to have. And a good indication that the system will not rest on its laurels, but will continue to build on its already considerable progress.

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