Excitement fills Arundel school Partnership: Jessup Elementary may have missed its moment on television, but a new principal and a student teacher program are making things happen.

The Education Beat

April 21, 1996|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

A crisis in the British royal family pushed Jessup Elementary School clean off the ABC Evening News one evening in late February, bitterly disappointing students and their families and teachers gathered around their sets.

Then ABC used the Jessup footage two months later to demonstrate the nationally acclaimed Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP). Only one problem: ABC never mentioned the school or its home district, Anne Arundel County, by name.

"Fifteen seconds of my face," laughs one teacher, "but not my 15 minutes of fame."

Never mind. The school, on Route 175 east of Columbia, is gaining a more permanent kind of fame.

State school officials are steering visiting firemen -- and women -- to the school. Anne Arundel Superintendent Carol S. Parham says Jessup "has all the ingredients" of greatness. Linda Adamson, Maryland's 1994 Teacher of the Year, has moved to the school and says, "I think I've died and gone to professional heaven."

What's happening here?

A large part is the designation of Jessup as a "professional development school" in a partnership with Towson State University (and, more recently, Anne Arundel Community College). Students studying to be teachers come to the school as juniors to get their feet and ankles wet. As seniors, they'll do their student teaching at Jessup or at nearby schools.

Their Towson professors come to Jessup -- not the other way round -- to teach and learn from veteran teachers.

"Everyone benefits," says Principal Rosemarie S. Thompson. "Instead of running students through a routine of several weeks' student teaching and then saying, 'Go do it,' we're working with them from the start. We're helping them decide if they really want to be teachers, then mentoring them on the best practices in education. We're developing a real community here, with the student teachers an integral part of the staff."

Ms. Thompson, a 27-year veteran of Anne Arundel schools, is another reason people are watching Jessup Elementary. Hand-picked by Dr. Parham two years ago, she brims with self-confidence, enough enthusiasm to sell you the nearby state prisons (if you're not careful) and a willingness to take chances.

"In order for programs to fly, you have to take risks," she says, "and teachers don't have to get all of their ideas from the administration."

She hired 22 teachers her first year, interviewing more than 70 candidates. Half of the newcomers are in their first year of teaching. "First-year teachers come with enthusiasm. I like that," says the principal.

Jessup has a number of promising programs and approaches. And there's an off-campus "outreach" program. Guidance counselor Leona Munoz leads a group of teachers, including the Towson State neophytes, into a nearby poverty neighborhood where they tutor (and recently painted a house).

Unlike some schools to the west, Jessup isn't populated by the children of professionals and Washington bureaucrats. Indeed, it was chosen as a model for teacher training because its profile looks much like Anne Arundel's. About 35 percent of the school's 750 students are black, and a quarter are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

When the results of next month's round of MSPAP testing come out in the winter, check on Jessup. Last year's scores moved up, but Jessup still has not reached the "excellent" or even "satisfactory" level in any of the 12 third- and fifth-grade tests.

It will be time in the next couple of years to see what all the excitement's about.

Peacemaker needed for city schools

Bob Bonnell is frustrated. Mr. Bonnell, a retired businessman who has devoted much of the last 10 years to helping students graduate from Lake Clifton-Eastern High School, thinks the showdown between city school officials and state politicians and educators is "bizarre."

"The city wants help. The state wants to help," he says, "but here they are like two horses tied together, each trying to reach a

different pile of hay. Why couldn't they agree to go to one pile, then to the other?"

He suggests a solution. Put aside your egos, he says to the combatants, and bring in a "high-powered negotiator/coordinator" to mediate. Mr. Bonnell suggests Jimmy Carter. "You can smile, but do not laugh. There are over 100,000 young lives at stake. Ultimately, all of us will be affected."

Correction and clarification

The superintendent of Catholic schools in Baltimore is Ronald J. Valenti, not Robert J. Apologies to Dr. Valenti.

We also said last Sunday that the citywide high schools were at capacity. According to headquarters at North Avenue, four of them are more than 80 percent full. As of Wednesday, however, Edmondson-Westside Senior High was at 64 percent of capacity, Western at 71 percent, Mergenthaler at 68 percent and Poly at 42 percent.

Pub Date: 4/21/96

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