17 Washington Co. elementary, middle schools fail to meet proficiency standards in Md. testing

Five that fell short two consecutive years considered to be in 'school improvement'

June 29, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |

Seventeen Washington County public elementary and middle schools failed to meet at least one state reading or math proficiency standard in the past school year.

Five of those schools are considered to be in “school improvement” because they failed to meet proficiency standards for two consecutive years — 2010 and 2011, school system officials said.

Of those five, Western Heights Middle School is in the most precarious position because it also failed to meet proficiency standards in 2007 and 2008, said Jeremy Jakoby, supervisor of testing and accountability.

Western Heights is considered a “developing comprehensive school in improvement” and is in its third year of “school improvement,” Jakoby said.

The other schools considered to be in “school improvement” are Northern Middle and Bester, Williamsport and Winter Street elementaries. Those four schools were considered to be “alert” schools during the last school year because they missed proficiency standards in 2010 after meeting them in 2009.

Western Heights showed improvement on assessment tests in several areas, but not enough to meet proficiency goals, Assistant Superintendent Donna Hanlin said.

If Western Heights fails to meet “adequate yearly progress” in the coming school year, school system officials will need to plan to restructure the school for the 2012-2013 school year, said bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education.

That could involve changing the school’s leadership or having teachers reapply for their jobs at that school, Reinhard said.

Another option would be to close the school, and reopen it as a charter school run independently from the school system with its own board, state education spokeswoman Maureen Moran said. The school’s new leadership would then make decisions about how to structure the school, how classes should be taught, and who to hire, she said.

But restructuring usually involves a combination of putting new leadership in place and working with new staff, Reinhard said.

The State Board of Education would need to approve the restructuring plan, Reinhard said.

Western Heights Middle School went through a restructuring during the 2006-07 school year after the school failed to meet proficiency standards and became an “alert” school. The restructuring included having teachers reapply for their jobs and stay after school for additional training.

The school will have a new principal this school year, but Hanlin said the change in principals was decided before the school system received assessment test results. Decisions about principal placements are made based on the needs of the school system and individual schools, she said.


How testing works

Whether a school meets proficiency standards is based mainly on the results of assessment tests. For elementary and middle schools, those tests are given in third through eighth grades.

Benchmarks cover reading and math for several subgroups, including racial and ethnic groups as well as subgroups for special education, students with limited English proficiency and students who receive free or reduced-price meals. The indicators include performance as well as participation in the tests and school attendance.

The maximum number of indicators increased from 37 in 2010 to 45 in 2011 because the federal government added a subgroup, students of two or more races, and separated the previous Asian/Pacific Islander subgroup into two subgroups, Asian and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Moran said.

In Maryland, subgroups with four or fewer students do not count toward accountability guidelines. That’s the most rigorous subgroup standard among the states, Hanlin said.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act calls for the standards to meet proficiency standards for reading and math to rise each year. The goal is for each school and subgroup to reach 100 percent for the 2013-14 school year. That means every student who takes the tests would have to score at or above the proficiency level and have been in the school for a certain period of time.

Asked how difficult it will be for Western Heights to meet proficiency standards next school year, when the bar rises again, Hanlin said: “I think it becomes more and more challenging for all of our schools to meet that mark. We want all of our students to be successful.”

‘Alert’ schools

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