Schools To Work On Better Citizenship, Attendance

November 10, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

School superintendent Ray R. Keech pledged last week that county schools will meet every standard on the statewide performance report card before 1995 -- regardless of budget cuts.

The Harford public school system met most of the 13 goals of the five-year Maryland State Performance Program. But the county failed on the state's citizenship exam, attendance and drop out rates in some grades.

School officials refused extensive comment on the report last week, honoring an embargo on information until the state Department of Education releases its detailed study Tuesday.

But Keech defended the county's performance during a meeting Thursday night between the Board of Education and members of Harford's General Assembly delegation.

"We will be within all of the standards well before 1995, period. Money or no money," he said. "You're not going to get the master of excuses when you talk to this school board."

He said a statewidesummary of the MSSP study, reported last Sunday in The Sun, shows that Harford is surpassing most other school systems despite a budget that ranks 22nd out of 24 statewide on per-pupil spending.

The county failed to meet attendance standards in grades seven to 12. Keech said that Harford's 93-percent attendance rate was within 1 percentagepoint of the state goal.

He also noted that the county's 3.5-percent drop out rate for high school students almost meets the 3 percentstate minimum standard.

The county met standards for excellence on the statewide functional reading test and received satisfactory grades for mathematics and writing.

Like many public school systems statewide, Harford failed to meet the state standard of an 85-percent passing rate on the citizenship exam. But the number of county students who passed rose from 81.2 percent last year to 81.9 percent.

"Idon't see this as a mixed report card," Keech said. "I'm pleased with what it's telling us."

The county teachers' union seized on the report card last week, when it launched a "work to contract" strike to protest education budget cuts that have frozen salary raises.

"The reason things are fine is because of the quality and professionalism of Harford County teachers," said Christine Haggett, president of the Harford County Education Association.

"But when moral is down and frustration takes hold, I wonder how long the teachers can maintain that."

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