Recently released test scores indicate a tough road ahead for countyschools striving to meet standards for student achievement established by the governor and state Board of Education.
Test results of ninth-graders who took the functional math and reading tests in the fall reflect a school system slightly below the state standard level for reading and well below it in math.
Only Chesapeake Senior, Crofton Junior, Severn River Junior and Severna Park Senior met the state standard passing rate of 80 percent in the math test. No school met the state standards for excellent performance.
In reading, Crofton Junior, with 97 percent, and Severn River Junior, with 98.6 percent, met the state's category for excellence. Arundel Junior, Chesapeake Senior and Severna Park Senior had satisfactory reading scores.
Results of the citizenship and writing functional tests will be available in the spring.
State school officials admit that their standards are high and that the five-year plan for overhauling state schools under the Maryland School PerformanceProgram will take time to achieve.
"The idea is that within five years, most schools should be able to reach the standards or be very close to it," said Larry Chamblin, a spokesman for the state board. "They are not meant to be standards that can be met the first time around. It's something each school should be working hard to achieve."
Striving for those standards has meant some changes in the county school curriculum.
Beginning next school year, ninth-graders will no longer have the option of taking the American Government class -- which includes material on the citizenship test -- in first or second semester. They will be required to take the course during the first semester.
Beginning in May, pupils will take the state's Criterion Reference tests in grades 3, 5 and 8 in math, language arts, writing and reading. The new test is designed to serve as an in-depth measureof what is being taught in classrooms.
County school officials are providing training and conducting meetings to make sure middle, junior and high schools are using the same strategy.
"Each of our schools will be part of a strategic planning team," said Cheryl Wilhoyte, the county's assistant superintendent for instruction. "Our principals are looking at the results by race, gender and target groups, so that they can help (pupils) pass the test on the first sitting."
Wilhoyte admitted, however, that getting youths to come to school is sometimes even more difficult than getting them to learn. The school system is considering an automated calling system to notify parents when their children miss school, but that costs money -- about $4,000 per school. And a tight county budget means that new expenses are unlikely when demands for new teachers and school maintenance seem to be a higher priority.
Coordinator of high schools Shirley Hicks said principals are appealing to parents.
"We need parents as partners to work with us," she said.
State officials say school systems arenot being asked to go it alone. Chamblin said Gov. William Donald Schaefer is requesting $9 million in incentive grants for schools in next year's budget. If approved, schools statewide may apply for up to $400,000 to tackle problems that affect student achievement and test scores.
Another $2 million is being sought for training teachers in management skills necessary for administering the grants. The fine points of administering the grant money would be left up to the individual schools.
"A school struggling to make progress must develop a good plan that can be implemented in one to three years in order toqualify for the challenge grants," Chamblin said. "We would hope to provide money for schools to do things that they may not be able to do otherwise."
But school board member Patricia Huecker is skeptical about state help. Not only does she doubt the grant program will beapproved, but she also disagrees with it in principle.
"Who's to say the problem is created by central management?" Huecker said. "Giving schools total autonomy might not be what is needed."
1990 FUNCTIONAL TEST SCORES
Functional Test Scores administered in fall 1990to all ninth-grade students. Figures include students repeating ninth grade. Percentages are number of students earning passing scores.
School .. .. .. .. .. .. Math .. .. .. ... Reading
Annapolis Senior .. ..79 percent.. .. .. 90.6 percent
Arundel Junior .. .. 73 percent .. .. .. 95.3 percent
Brooklyn Park .. .. 74 percent .. .. .. 92.4 percent
Chesapeake Senior .. 82 percent .. .. .. 95 percent
Crofton Junior .. .. 87 percent .. .. .. 97 percent
Glen Burnie Senior .. 69 percent .. .. .. 90.1 percent
Lindale Junior .. ..76 percent .. .. .. 92.6 percent
Meade Senior .. .. 67 percent .... .. ..93.1 percent
Northeast Senior .. 66 percent .. .. .. ..92.6 percent
Old Mill Senior .. ..75 percent .. .. .. 93.3 percent
Severn River Junior.. 85 percent .. .. ..98.6 percent
Severna Park Senior ..82 percent .. .. ..96 percent
South River Senior .. 74percent .. .. ..94.4 percent
Southern Senior.. .. 69 percent .. .. ..93.8 percent
County .. .. .. .. .. 74 percent .. .. .93.6 percent
STATE STANDARDS: 97 or above = Excellent; 95 = Satisfactory inreading; 90 or above = Excellent; 80 = Satisfactory in math