School 'grading' only a first step We'll do better, officials vow

November 20, 1990|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff Jay Merwin, Monica Norton, Bruce Reid, Marina Sarris and Norris P. West contributed to this story.

Area school officials have vowed to meet the state's school performance standards in areas where their districts fall short.

But at least one superintendent worried yesterday that the report could lead local school districts to neglect art, music and other programs in their push to meet academic performance standards.

"We've never allowed functional tests to drive the curriculum before," said Anne Arundel County Superintendent Larry L. Lorton, whose district failed to meet six of the eight state standards.

But Lorton said the district has "an obligation to help youngsters pass those tests the first time out. That will likely have an impact on what we teach and when we teach it."

He added, "It's not going to be pretty for a little bit," but he said Anne Arundel will meet the challenge.

In Baltimore, which failed to meet all eight standards, Superintendent Richard C. Hunter warned against comparing the city with other jurisdictions, citing "the variables that make up our student population."

But Douglas J. Neilson, city schools spokesman, said "we know that we have a lot of ground to make up."

On the mathematics test, for example, only 43.3 percent of city ninth-graders taking the test passed, far below the "satisfactory" mark of 80 percent.

The city school administration already is calling for a 10 percent increase in the math score this year and another 10 percent next year. It will also push for smaller increases in the writing test and in school attendance.

On all four of the basic competency tests, "we'll be close, if not at the standard, by 1995," Neilson said.

In addition, the city is currently rewriting its entire curriculum in an effort to boost performance.

Neilson was less confident about meeting the 3 percent "satisfactory" dropout rate. Baltimore had a dropout rate of 18.8 percent last year, according to the state report.

He partly explained the city's low scores by citing Baltimore's low spending per pupil coupled with the large number of poor children and those with special needs.

On the bright side, Neilson noted that Baltimore Polytechnic Institute scored "excellent" in all categories, and Baltimore City College scored "excellent" in three and "satisfactory" in the other five.

But Irene Dandridge, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said she is "very, very disappointed, even if this is the first year." She said increased attendance is the key to better performance.

In Baltimore County, which met the standards in four areas, "we feel like we've got a good running start," said schools spokesman Richard E. Bavaria.

"In the areas where we fell behind, we're only a percentage point or two away from satisfactory. And, in the areas where we received satisfactory, we're only a percentage point away from excellence."

Howard County School Superintendent Michael Hickey was pleased with the county's performance in seven of the eight categories. But he said he wants the system to gain "excellent" scores in all eight categories within the next few years.

Hickey cited local funding, good pre-school preparation and a good curriculum as reasons for Howard's success.

Carroll County school officials also found much to crow about, saying their report card indicated that Carroll got the most out of its money and staff.

Carroll schools ranked low in spending and expenses but passed five of the eight performance evaluations.

"We don't see another system in the state that has gotten better results for the resources available to them," said Carroll School Superintendent Edward Shilling. "I think it's clear we are one of the highest performing counties in the state."

In Harford County, School Superintendent Ray R. Keech praised the county's performance despite its low spending per pupil. Harford met the standard in four areas.

"I think it's fair to say that Harford County is getting a tremendous punch for the buck," Keech said. For the 1989-1990 school year, the county ranked 21st in spending per pupil.

But if Harford wants students to keep pace or improve in test scores, Keech said, the system needs more teachers and supplies.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.