Improving middle schools Anne Arundel: Money will be needed to implement ideas from superintendent's task force.

July 09, 1998

A STUDENT'S performance in middle school is often a good indicator of his or her success in high school. The recent report from Anne Arundel County Superintendent Carol S. Parham's Task Force on Student Achievement emphasizes the point. If the system is to improve high school achievement -- as many as one-third of county students can't maintain a C average -- the middle school experience must be more rigorous and demanding.

The task force report did not unearth any revolutionary findings, but it focuses on a problem that needs immediate attention.

Middle school students without the proper attitude and appropriate skills are doomed to get off to a bad start as high school freshmen.

To its credit, the task force identified programs in place in a number of county schools that could be used to solve problems ranging from poor attendance to reading comprehension.

The group also developed suggestions to establish countywide criteria for promotion, to increase parents' participation in the process and to start high school later in the morning (from 7: 15 a.m. to no earlier than 8: 30 a.m.) to take advantage of adolescents' biological clocks. These and other ideas in the report are worth further exploration. The question facing the school system is how to do it. Virtually every recommendation requires money.

"I think Dr. Parham was really counting on getting started with these recommendations in the fall," said Tom Clowes, a teacher at Northeast High who was on the task force. "But with this budget situation, we will be lucky to open the schoolhouse doors."

Considering that $9 million had to be trimmed to balance this fiscal year's budget, it would appear that no money, or very little, will be available next year for these programs. But producing graduates who have realized their full potential is one of the most important services that government can perform.

If money is the main obstacle, county officials had better develop a strategy to overcome it.

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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