Manor Woods' MSPAP success Important lessons: Howard County school's high rating came from teamwork, leadership.

December 24, 1997

IF AFFLUENCE were the only criterion for education success, more than two elementary schools in the entire state would have received "excellent" ratings in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. The two schools are Manor Woods in Howard County and Somerset in Chevy Chase. Both have large percentages of students from affluent, stable families, but that is only part of the story. The rest is how hard teachers and parents worked to get the best possible results.

Manor Woods kindergartners receive reading instruction -- three students to a tutor -- several times a week. First-graders who need it get one-on-one reading instruction. That level of intensity is demanded by a school improvement team of parents, teachers and staff members, including instructional assistants and the school secretary. The team meets weekly to discuss details as minute as the words children should be able to spell and historic events they should know at each grade level.

Such involvement is possible at any school, although perhaps not to the same degree, if it has good leadership. At many schools in Maryland it is the work of a dynamic principal who pulls parents and teachers together for the type of communication that leads to great education results. At Manor Woods, principal John C. Morningstar deserves accolades for his school's MSPAP results. But he is not the only one doing a good job. The number of schools achieving a "satisfactory" MSPAP rating has climbed to 52 from 11 four years years ago.

To achieve an "excellent" rating, more than 70 percent of Manor Woods' fifth-graders last year had to score satisfactory in each of six subject areas of the MSPAP test. Their average overall score was 79.1; they scored 72.7 in reading, 71.6 in writing, 82.4 in language use, 83.0 in math, 80.7 in science and 84.1 in social studies. Mr. Morningstar acknowledged that Manor Woods students have become very proficient at taking performance-based tests.

MSPAP will likely always have its detractors -- no one has yet devised a perfect school assessment vehicle. But that does not diminish the achievements of schools performing well under MSPAP. The positive relationships that led to Manor Woods' MSPAP success -- parent to teacher to student -- are the keys to better learning at any school.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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