Md. troubled schools' list turns up some surprises Programs on upswing make endangered list

January 29, 1998|By Liz Bowie and Mary Maushard | Liz Bowie and Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

The 38 schools in Baltimore and Prince George's County added yesterday to the state's list of failing schools include a host of schools that have had low test scores for years as well as some schools thought to have been improving.

In Baltimore, 29 additional schools -- 20 elementary and nine middle -- were labeled as needing state oversight because their scores on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test are so far below the state average for attendance and achievement.

As of yesterday, 79 of the city's 183 schools are considered inadequate.

Some of the schools added yesterday have been poor performers for years.

For instance, at Margaret Brent Elementary, no third-graders passed the statewide reading test in 1993 or 1996. Last spring, only 7 percent of the third-graders were reading satisfactorily.

At Thurgood Marshall Middle School, No. 171, fewer than 7 percent of eighth-graders had satisfactory scores in reading, writing, language, math, science and social studies.

Some of the schools on the list of poor performers were surprises. For instance, Barclay Elementary and Fallstaff Middle have been considered good schools in the past, but their scores have dropped.

And at Carter G. Woodson Elementary, a troubled program has been improving. The school, which began phasing in the private Calvert School curriculum four years ago, has been getting vastly improved scores in the grades in which the new curriculum is used, both on the MSPAP and national standardized tests.

"In a sense, we reconstituted ourselves four years ago," said Susan Spath, principal at the Cherry Hill school. "I am completely convinced that we are doing the right thing with Calvert, and we will continue that."

Cherry Hill Elementary also improved its test scores three years in a row. But last spring, the scores fell. None of Cherry Hill's third-graders, for example, received satisfactory scores in reading or social studies, and only 7.5 percent were satisfactory in math. Fifth-grade scores were generally higher -- 13.8 percent satisfactory in reading, for example -- though well below 1996 scores.

Robert Schiller, interim chief for the city schools, said the naming of additional schools to the endangered list was a reflection of the schools' performance.

"The data don't lie," said Schiller. "Indeed, we have the lowest-performing schools in the state, and it cannot continue. The [city school] board stands committed and ready to move forward in a very dramatic fashion."

The city school board will work this week on strategies to address the problems at under performing schools, said Bonnie Copeland, a board member.

"We are very concerned and disappointed that there are so many low-performing schools," said Copeland. "We are looking at a way to structure the system that pays a whole lot more attention to the low-performing schools."

In the four years before yesterday, state education officials identified 52 troubled schools, 50 in the city and one each in Anne Arundel and Somerset counties. State school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick stressed that the designation does not constitute a takeover but rather the establishment of a partnership with the state Education Department.

State school board members gave the city schools a break. They told the city school board, which must develop a master plan to reform the entire system, that it did not have to spend long hours developing plans for each school. One comprehensive plan will do, the state board said. This would reduce significantly the amount of paperwork required of each school and put the responsibility for improvement more on the district than the state.

In Prince George's County, five middle and four elementary schools were named among the low performers.

Unlike the city schools, those in Prince George's will have to develop individual, detailed school plans by April 1, and transition and longer-range plans after that.

In trouble

The following Baltimore public schools were identified as being so far below standards that they need state supervision:

Elementary schools

Barclay

Belmont

Margaret Brent

Dr. Rayner Browne

Callaway

Walter P. Carter

Cherry Hill

Collington Square

Fort Worthington

Frederick

Lakeland

Matthew A. Henson

Langston Hughes

Madison Square

Samuel F. B. Morse

Park Heights

Mary E. Rodman

Rognel Heights

Tench Tilghman

Carter G. Woodson

Middle schools

Barclay

Benjamin Franklin

Fallstaff

Garrison

Hazelwood

Northeast

Southeast

Thurgood Marshall

Winston

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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