Some schools missed Adequate Yearly Progress by a handful of students

July 02, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Washington County Public Schools that did not meet 2011 state proficiency standards.
By Chad Trovinger

Although 17 Washington County elementary and middle schools failed to meet state proficiency standards in at least one area in the past school year, Assistant Superintendent Donna Hanlin said individual students and groups or grades of students made improvements.

"I think when you don't recognize the growth that schools make, it has to have a detrimental effect on morale," Hanlin said.

The results released Wednesday by the Maryland State Department of Education stem from reading and math assessment tests given to grades three to eight in March.

A year ago, Maryland School Assessment results showed that all but six — 26 of Washington County's 32 public elementary and middle schools — met proficiency standards in 2010.

According to the 2010 results, three elementary schools — Bester, Williamsport and Winter Street — and three middle schools — Northern, Springfield and Western Heights — did not meet proficiency standards that year.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act calls for the schools, and various subgroup populations at the schools, to meet higher proficiency standards each year through the 2013-14 school year, when the goal is 100 percent proficiency for all schools and subgroups. 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.

"I believe you will see a lot more schools that have not met that bar because it gets a lot more difficult," Hanlin said.

Some of the 17 schools that didn't meet Adequate Yearly Progress missed by a handful of students, said Jeremy Jakoby, the school system's supervisor of testing and accountability.

"None of us is going to say this isn't important," but it's only one way to measure student success, Hanlin said.

Congress has not yet reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), named No Child Left Behind under the Bush Administration, local and state education officials said.

Jakoby said U.S. Department of Education officials are trying to push Congress to reauthorize ESEA so it provides a fairer way to hold schools accountable and gives more credit for individual growth.

"Teachers, parents, school leaders, governors, members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education have all called for reforming No Child Left Behind. NCLB has encouraged states to lower their standards and created a one-size-fits all accountability (system) that doesn't fit the unique needs of communities. We must fix No Child Left Behind, not in Washington time, but in real people time," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Thursday in an email from the department's press office.

"We're going to continue to look at every individual student's needs and develop an educational program that is best for the student," Hanlin said. That could include reading and math interventions, she said.

One area that has received attention and will continue to do so is special education, Hanlin said. That was a frequent area where local schools missed the proficiency mark, she said.

Twelve of the 17 schools that did not meet proficiency standards are listed as "alert schools" because they met proficiency standards in 2010, but failed to meet at least one in 2011.

The alert schools are E. Russell Hicks Middle School, and Eastern, Emma K. Doub, Fountain Rock, Fountaindale, Greenbrier, Hickory, Lincolnshire, Old Forge, Pangborn, Paramount and Salem Avenue elementary schools.

The school system will conduct a "climate survey" at all of the alert schools, Jakoby said. That anonymous survey gives parents, teachers and others an opportunity to share their thoughts on how their school can be improved.

Five schools are considered to be in "school improvement" because they failed to meet proficiency standards for two consecutive years — 2010 and 2011. Those schools are Northern and Western Heights middle schools and Bester, Williamsport and Winter Street elementary schools.

School system officials have 90 days to submit school improvement plans to the state education department that explain what will be done at the five schools that are in "school improvement" to help students improve their standardized test scores next year, said Maureen Moran, Maryland State Department of Education spokeswoman.

The school system has a school improvement plan for each school in the system, but the plans for those under "school improvement" will get more attention, Hanlin said.

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