10 more schools in city failing Additions bring total of troubled schools in Baltimore to 50

Amprey opposes state move

Superintendent asked officials to delay until lawmakers decide bill

February 01, 1997|By Jean Thompson and Mary Maushard | Jean Thompson and Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Maryland officials ordered 10 more Baltimore schools to improve teaching and test scores yesterday, bringing to 50 the number in the city operating under state supervision.

Yesterday's additions to the annual school-reform list prompted protest from city school officials, who noted that policy-makers are demanding immediate overhauls at the same time that they are pressing for partial control and a sweeping reorganization of the school system.

"We won't resist this, but it doesn't seem to make sense to me, and I'd have to say it almost seems mean-spirited," said city schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey. "If I had my preference, they would not have done it this year until we get the school system settled."

Amprey had appealed unsuccessfully for the state to forgo adding schools to the list while legislators in Annapolis consider a bill that would give the state a say in city school management, eliminate his job and replace the school board.

However, city schools with low and declining test scores should not have to wait for the political battle to end before they get attention, said state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. don't expect this to be wasted time for children," she said.

Each of the seven elementary schools and two middle schools identified yesterday earned average scores in the single digits on last year's Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests.

On average, only 3.9 percent of students earned satisfactory scores on the six subject exams at Johnston Square and George G. Kelson elementaries, for example.

Also added to the school reform list were City Springs, Commodore John Rodgers, George Street, Liberty and Westport elementaries.

The state also designated Greenspring and Thurgood Marshall #170 Middle schools and Southwestern High School for restructuring.

Two of the schools already had been targeted for new programs by the city: Nonprofit groups received approval last week to become semi-independent operators of Kelson and City Springs elementaries.

The state's "reconstitution" status might "complicate the process" at Kelson, because the state's demands might differ from the nonprofit Woodbourne Center Inc.'s plans, worried its president and chief executive, John Hodge-Williams. "I would hope that we could start out Kelson with a clean slate," he said.

At City Springs, a strict and scripted curriculum was introduced this year and already resulted in improvements in reading skills and attendance, said city school officials.

The experiment is managed by the nonprofit Baltimore Curriculum Project, which has won tentative approval to take over the school.

Yesterday, its managers said they have experience working under state monitoring: The same experiment is being used in three schools on the state's fix-it list.

For other schools, disappointment and hope intermingled.

"One thing that I've noticed about the other schools that went before us is that they survived, and we'll survive because we have to do it for these kids," said Mary L. McCrea, principal at Johnston Square.

Since 1993, Maryland's school-reform program has required school systems to fix failing schools or lose control of them. The city's Patterson and Frederick Douglass High schools were the first to undergo the state-supervised reorganizations, and the number has risen each year.

Statewide, the total is now 52 schools: The two outside Baltimore are in Anne Arundel and Somerset counties.

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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