State board grants city an extension Baltimore officials get 10 more days for plan on 35 failing schools

'Looking for ... specificity'

Md. superintendent sets meeting for today to clarify points

March 20, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

&TC Without even asking, Baltimore City schools received an extension yesterday to submit plans for rebuilding 35 failing schools to the state Board of Education.

Although school officials met the March 15 deadline with a 43-page proposal and another 75 pages of supporting information state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick asked the state board to give the city another 10 days.

"What we're looking for is a level of specificity" about individual schools, said Rhona Fisher, who directs the state education department's program to rebuild troubled schools. "A school improvement plan is school specific."

City school officials acted somewhat surprised at the superintendent's reaction to their proposal because the state board was adamant in January that the city not present 35 individual plans. The board said then it wanted a proposal for "systemic change."

But the state has not switched directions on city schools, said Dr. Fisher. The state does not want 35 separate plans, but one plan with consideration for individual school problems. At Dr. Grasmick's direction, city and state school officials will meet today to clarify what the state wants.

The city's plan lays out broad strategies for beginning to improve schools identified in January as eligible for takeover, a process the state calls reconstitution.

Four city high schools, four middle schools and 27 elementary schools were so designated this year because of their poor scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment tests last spring. Five other city schools have been designated for takeover in the past two years.

According to the documents, the city schools' plan would, among its goals:

* Stress that all students can achieve academically.

* Call for specialized training for school administrators and teachers.

* Improve educational technology that can help students learn.

* Bring curriculum and instruction with state learning goals.

While granting the city an extension until March 29, the state board approved reconstitution plans for two other schools Van Bokkelen Elementary in Anne Arundel County and Woodson Middle in Somerset County.

The board and state school officials were nearly effusive in their praise of the Van Bokkelen Elementary plan, calling it "absolutely outstanding" and a model for other districts.

Board members did not comment on the content of the city's proposal because Dr. Grasmick intervened before the presentation, saying, "We recognize that there would be some additional work...required."

The city document specifies that Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has set up six teams of school administrators to assist individual schools with their improvement plans, and created a resource team to determine and acquire "human and material resources to bring about positive change."

School administrators have interviewed the principals of the 35 failing schools, the report asserts, and are in the process of determining if they are suitable to direct the school improvement.

In other action yesterday, the state board:

* Approved the core learning goals in social studies for high school students who must pass required tests before graduation.

* Awarded more than $1.2 million in grants to eight school districts under the Schools for Success/Goals 2000 program.

Pub Date: 3/20/96

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