It was almost a clean sweep - in academic performance, at least -- for Carroll County in the first round of the Maryland School Performance Program.
Carroll's academic report card was second only to that of Howard County, which spends $1,229 more per pupil than does Carroll. The Carroll school system failed to gain a satisfactory score only in math.
The state performance standards, released in November, set levels school districts must meet to be rated "satisfactory" or "excellent." Schools were assessed in four academic categories -- math, reading, writing and citizenship -- and in student attendance, dropout rates and promotion rates.
In the other categories, Carroll received a satisfactory rating in annual school attendance for pupils in grades 1 through 6, but failed to meet state goals for high school student attendance and annual dropout rate.
The system was rated excellent for its annual promotion rate of elementary students. Carroll promoted 99.1 percent of its students, compared with state goals of 96 percent (satisfactory rating) and 98 percent (for excellent).
Although the results were good news for Carroll school officials, the performance program, part of state Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling's education reform plan, also has prompted some concerns.
Commenting on the results to the new county commissioners, Carroll Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said, "I hope we can say the same thing three years from now. I don't believe we will be able to."
Like other educators, Shilling is concerned that as the MSPP standards become more stringent, Carroll's ability to meet them will be hampered by a lack of additional dollars.
Specifically, Carroll needs to add dollars for more resources and staffing, Shilling said. Currently, Carroll has 57.4 teachers per 1,000 students, placing the district 22nd among the state's 24 school systems.
Adding salt to the wound, Shilling noted to the commissioners that the more affluent Howard County school system has 120 teachers dealing strictly with gifted and talented students.
"There are many other areas where we're going to see significant gaps, and that concerns us," Shilling said.
These concerns come amid revenue shortfalls in the county, which has implemented a hiring freeze and has proposed budgetary cuts.
The MSPP, though, wasn't the only school-reform package on the table for educators during the past year. The school board and administrators sorted through a long list of national, state and local recommendations to improve schools.
The board will ask the county delegation to give high priority to a number of state initiatives, including mandatory kindergarten and computer-assisted instruction.