Baltimore County school officials say they're encouraged by the gains of elementary school students in lower-income areas last year.
"We always want more," says Anna E. Lowman, coordinator of the county's Chapter One program, who released a report on the results of the program at a school board meeting last week. "We're not satisfied with where we are, because the aim of Chapter One is student achievement."
Chapter One is a federally funded program for disadvantaged children. Schools are targeted based upon the economic levels of their neighborhoods and academic achievement of their students.
Children are screened for the program and, with parental approval, receive additional help in the classroom from a Chapter One teacher in addition to the regular curriculum.
In Baltimore County, Lowman says, Chapter One students in general are "doing extremely well."
"When we look at what we have done . . . I think it really reflects our curriculum and the quality of our regular program," she says, referring to the importance of a good standard curriculum for the success of Chapter One students.
The annual report on the achievement of Chapter One students is required by the Maryland State Department of Education as to identifying children who no longer need the program, as well as those students who are not reaching the minimum goals set by the state.
The results are based on the improvement a child shows between the beginning and end of the school year. Scores are based only on those children who were able to take standardized tests at both ends of the school year.
Overall, 63 percent of the second- and third-graders tested exceeded the state's minimum improvement score in basic reading, while 74 percent exceeded the basic math standard.
This is a slight improvement over the previous year, although direct comparisons are difficult because the tests, scoring criteria and the number of students taking the test changed.
However, the youngsters didn't fare so well in tests of advanced skills, failing to meet standards for improvement in math concepts and applications.
Lowman says improving those scores will require specific plans, including a push for increased parental support for students.
At a meeting last week, board Vice President Calvin Disney commended the Chapter One program and emphasized the importance of the success of younger students.
"I think it's kind of interesting that everyone concentrates on SATs . . . a test we give high school students, when if we're going to have any success in the future in this county, it'll be at [the elementary] level."
Board member Dunbar Brooks agrees.
"We need to be successful [with elementary school children] so we can be successful at the higher grades," he says.