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WCPS must submit improvement plan for Western Heights

Middle school is only one in county in 'school improvement' category

July 21, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
  • Western Heights Middle School
File Photo,

Washington County Public Schools officials have 90 days to submit a school improvement plan to the state education department that explains what will be done to help Western Heights Middle School students improve their standardized test scores this coming school year.

The middle school in Hagerstown's West End is the only school among 32 elementary and middle schools in the county to be considered in "school improvement," said Jeremy Jakoby, supervisor of testing and accountability for the local school system.

The first step will be to analyze the 2010 Maryland School Assessment results released Tuesday to find out why the school didn't meet proficiency standards this past school year, said Michael Markoe, assistant superintendent for student and staff support. Markoe was assistant superintendent for elementary instruction during this past school year.

Then, local education officials can put a plan together, determining what resources are needed to help the school improve, Markoe said.

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"There obviously have to be noticeable changes for the students or we're not going to achieve (the) goal," Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

Western Heights worked hard to meet state standards and met proficiency standards for the 2008-09 school year, providing a glimmer of hope, Morgan said. It was too early to tell why the school didn't meet those standards last school year, she said.

According to an e-mail from school system spokesman Richard Wright, 336 schools, statewide, failed to meet proficiency standards in one or more categories when the 2010 assessment results were released Tuesday by the Maryland State Department of Education.

Six Washington County public schools failed to meet proficiency standards this past school year.

Bester, Williamsport and Winter Street elementary schools and Northern and Springfield middle schools are considered "alert schools," Jakoby said.

Western Heights is considered in "school improvement" because the school failed to meet proficiency standards in 2007 and 2008.

After a school fails to meet proficiency guidelines for two consecutive years, it is considered in "school improvement." To exit school improvement, a school must meet proficiency standards for two consecutive years, which Western Heights didn't do, Jakoby said.

This past school year, Western Heights didn't meet proficiency standards for all students in reading. It also didn't meet reading or math standards for African-American students, special education students, or students who receive free or reduced-price meals, according to state data.

Special education was the only category in which the school failed to meet proficiency standards in both 2007 and 2008, according to state data.

Western Heights and Winter Street both went through a restructuring in the 2006-07 school year to accelerate student performance and improve professional development of teachers at those schools. The restructuring included longer school days and having teachers reapply for their jobs, school system officials said.

Both schools met proficiency standards in the 2005-06 school year, according to state data. School system officials restructured the two schools anyway for the following school year as a proactive measure, Morgan said.

"We knew they were on the edge," she said.

For the next two school years -- 2006-07 and 2007-08 -- Western Heights failed to meet some adequate yearly progress proficiency standards, according to state data. The minimum standard rises each year as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Research says it takes three to five years to turn around a school, Markoe said.

"We have to be patient," Markoe said. "We do have 100 percent confidence in the leadership and the teachers in both those buildings."

Winter Street met proficiency standards until this past school year, when the West End elementary school failed to meet proficiency standards for special education students, according to state data.

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