Grasmick touts school reforms She tells educators of gains at Patterson, Douglass

March 23, 1997|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's telephone began "ringing off the hook" when it was announced that Baltimore's Patterson and Frederick Douglass high schools were candidates for a state takeover.

"One man said: 'I went to [Patterson]. I'm a multimillionaire. What you mean to say this school isn't achieving on behalf of the students?' " Grasmick said.

Now, almost four years later, "we see forward progress" at those schools thanks to school reform, Grasmick said.

Her remarks were made yesterday to about 200 people attending the annual conference of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, an international group of educators, mostly school administrators, meeting in Baltimore for the first time.

Some 11,000 people are registered for the four-day conference that began yesterday at the Baltimore Convention Center, making it one of the largest annual meetings in the group's history, an organizer said.

School reform is a focus of the conference that includes workshops on issues from bilingual education to effective use of computers in the classroom.

The conference's workshops, lectures and other events fill a 400-page paperback book. Some of the conference sessions center on narrowly defined topics and others leave participants struggling for a definition.

For example, at a "town meeting" yesterday 30 educators could not reach consensus on how to interpret an ASCD national board statement on equity in education.

ASCD is a nonprofit group and does not have lobbyists to press its causes with political officials, said spokesman Susan Hlesciak Hall. However, ASCD officials may encourage members of local affiliates to contact government officials about concerns, she said.

Yesterday, Grasmick was characteristically blunt in detailing Douglass and Patterson's problems. "When 70 percent of the students who enter in ninth grade don't exit in 12th grade, you have a serious problem," she said.

She said influential alumni and others who initially called her to criticize reform plans were presented with details of alarming dropout rates, incompetent teachers and dismal attendance.

As a result of the state-ordered improvement plans, the city agreed to "reconstitute" Douglass and Patterson, making many staffing changes and creating separate academies focused on career and academic programs and other strategies to reverse decline.

Today, Grasmick said she is proud that reforms instituted in Maryland have resulted in more people finishing high school, better school attendance and improved performance on Standardized Assessment Tests.

"We are setting world-class standards," she said.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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