School board discusses shifts in budget plan Standardized tests among proposals

January 31, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Concerned that immediate needs of students may not be met, some Anne Arundel County school board members said they will consider changing the superintendent's budget proposal to put more resources into classrooms.

"I would like to see the inclusion of standardized tests for every student every year," board President Joseph H. Foster said after last night's budget workshop in Annapolis.

The school system abandoned the practice a few years ago after state performance tests were begun, but each student does not take that test annually.

"We need to know on a year-by-year basis what progress we are making," Mr. Foster said.

He said such testing might have alerted the school system to a downturn at Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn, which this month became the first suburban school in Maryland to be threatened with a state takeover because of a drop in already mediocre test scores.

Last week, Mr. Foster suggested that the school system look into year-round schooling and longer school days to help struggling youngsters catch up.

Last night's workshop did not allow time for board members to talk about specific shifts in line items in the $427.5 million budget proposed by Superintendent Carol S. Parham. But they asked administrators to provide them with cost estimates for such expenses as more reading teachers.

"I need direct support to the child," said board member Thomas Twombly, who wants a reduced teacher-student ratio and more reading teachers. "Those are the kinds of things I am interested in, not people in the front office."

Included in the proposed budget are the additions of three administrative trainees, five guidance counselors and four secretaries, jobs the administration said would alleviate duties that have fallen to teachers and reading specialists.

Board member Carlesa Finney said she believed guidance positions were crucial, and board member Michael Pace expressed concern over the escalating cost of special education.

Kenneth Lawson, associate superintendent for instruction and student services, said the budget proposal would eliminate $77,000 in transportation for some 1,200 summer school students, does not meet "Bridging the Gap" school support services goals and may not meet the state's school health requirement to provide services to every disabled child. Anne Arundel is already a year late in that.

Mr. Lawson also said the spending plan is projected to be about $228,000 short in special education salaries, does not include enough resources for school improvements and test preparation PTC

and fails to keep up with enrollment increases in the number of psychologists, counselors and the like.

But he said including those items in the proposed budget could add $10 million to $15 million in costs.

The school board will hold the first of its two budget hearings today at its offices in Annapolis. The hearing will occur even if school is canceled because of snow.

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