Carroll schools win top marks on report card 'Excellent' rating given in 9 of 13 state categories

November 16, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Carroll County schools have maintained their status among the top-performing in the Maryland School Performance Program, in results released statewide yesterday as a school "report card."

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling and his staff emphasized that Carroll schools have continued that trend while spending less per student than the state average and even less than Baltimore.

He said he has told principals, as they share school results with the community, to "celebrate the success. I want the teachers to know we absolutely believe the reason for our success can be put right at their feet."

Most of Carroll's success was in meeting the "excellent" standard in most of the Maryland functional tests. These tests are supposed to measure basic knowledge of reading, writing, mathematics and citizenship.

No Carroll schools met the standards in the much tougher "criterion reference" tests, or CRTs, that measure how students apply more advanced problem-solving skills and higher levels of thinking in third, fifth and eighth grades for reading, mathematics, social studies and science.

But Mr. Shilling said very few schools statewide met the "satisfactory" standards for the criterion reference tests. A few counties, such as Howard and Frederick, have some individual schools that met those standards.

Of the 13 categories not counting the CRTs, Carroll schools met the "excellent" standard for nine of them, as high as any district in the state.

Those "excellent" categories included all but one of the eight functional test categories, plus the rate of promotion for students in first through sixth grades.

Schools met the "satisfactory" standard for three more categories.

The only category in which Carroll schools didn't meet even the satisfactory standard was attendance at the secondary level. Mr. Shilling said that was no surprise, and said data show that was a direct result of his decision to make up snow days in June instead of asking the state for a waiver.

Some students did not attend that last week because of previous commitments to vacations and camps.

"I have no regrets about making that decision," he said.

The criterion reference test results were released in May, but state officials have combined them with the new functional test results for the first time this year to create a more comprehensive school report card.

"I think the CRTs are going to be a tough play for us," Mr. Shilling said. "It is no surprise to me that Howard and Frederick counties are doing very well in that area. They made some serious commitments in that area."

He said those counties have concentrated on teaching children how to apply knowledge once they've got it. He said Carroll schools will need to devote more money to training teachers to do that.

"We've done well at functional, basic kinds of skills," Mr. Shilling said. "I frankly would change results with Howard County any time they'd like to. I'd also change resources with Howard County."

Carroll County spends $5,089 per student per year. Howard spends $6,695, among the highest in the state. Baltimore RTC spends $5,182. The state average is $5,823.

At the high-school level, a greater percentage of Carroll graduates completed courses that would have qualified them to enter the University of Maryland, a benchmark the state uses to determine how well schools are preparing their students for college.

This year, 45.2 percent of students met those requirements, compared with 39.2 percent last year.

Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education for Carroll, said some of the increase could be from staff efforts to encourage students to take more tough courses, as well as a student incentive to do so to meet tougher University of Maryland requirements. State graduation requirements also added an extra year of math since 1989.

"We couldn't put our finger on one [cause]," Mr. McDowell said.

The drop-out rate in Carroll rose slightly, from 2.6 percent to 2.85 percent. Mr. Shilling said part of the increase could be due to higher standards for students who remain in school. But he said it is important for schools statewide not to abandon students who have trouble meeting higher standards.

"We've upped the ante," he said. "At what point do those people finally throw up their hands and say,'That's not for me. I'm out of here'? That's one of the reasons the state included [the drop-out rate in the report]."

Mr. McDowell said schools must make provisions for students to finish their education in alternate ways, and to be prepared for occupations if they don't go to college.

L Here is a look at how schools elsewhere in the region fared.

Arundel

Anne Arundel County public schools met statewide standards in 12 of 13 areas, two more than last year, according to the statewide report card.

The exception was the countywide dropout rate -- 3.76 percent for Arundel schools compared with a minimum state standard of 3 percent. The statewide standard for excellence is a 1.25 percent dropout rate.

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