Building on MSPAP's momentum Carroll County: Results are great, but beware of scores leveling off, crowded classes.

December 18, 1997

STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT in the latest state school performance assessment should be a source of pride to Carroll County. In the composite scores, Carroll ranked second only to neighboring Howard County among the 24 Maryland public school systems.

That Carroll continues to excel in spite of spending less per pupil than most counties, and with nearly the fewest teachers per 1,000 students, is also comforting to taxpayers. The relative leanness of its administration and support staffing is similarly encouraging.

Something very good is happening in Carroll's schools. Teachers and staff deserve much credit. So do the parents who prepare their children to do their best in school.

As the state report card shows, Carroll ranks in the middle of Maryland counties in relative wealth. The excuse that Carroll pupils achieve because the county is exceptionally rich just is not true.

If anything, the county is proof that academic achievement can't be bought by simply spending more money. Spending money wisely is another thing. So is having a community, a home, an environment that nurtures learning and supports needed improvements.

In that context, there are some stiff challenges for the county schools to do better.

The state school performance results showed a leveling off in Carroll student test scores this year -- and a composite score that is still 15 percentage points from the 70 percent-satisfactory goal for all Maryland schools by 2000. None of the 52 Maryland schools that achieved that goal this year is in Carroll.

One practical way to promote better learning has long been evident: reducing class sizes. More than 600 Carroll classes -- including 84 elementary classes -- have 30 or more pupils, measured against a desirable limit of 25 children per class. That's too many kids competing for a single teacher's attention.

Carroll taxpayers are committed to spending more, through a vTC $100 million school construction program that could relieve overcrowding and also help to lower class sizes overall. But higher funding for more teachers to decrease class size throughout the system should be a priority for a county that rightfully prides itself on top-quality public schools.

Pub Date: 12/18/97

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