High school aims higher with project North Carroll High starts five-year plan for new accreditation

'Push the envelope'

December 06, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

North Carroll High School is raising the bar.

The Hampstead school has established an ambitious five-year plan to improve student performance as part of a new school accreditation process.

The project, developed by North Carroll's staff during the past year, includes measureble goals and calls for the school to meet the following objectives by 2003:

Increase the school's SAT scores by 50 points in both the verbal and math categories; achieve an average school score 10 percent above the average statewide score on the new Maryland High School Assessment Program tests; and ensure that all seniors meet the school's new technology proficiency standards.

"These are real stretches from where we are," said Gary Dunkleberger, North Carroll High's principal. "It's an aggressive look at what we can and ought to be doing better for the students of North Carroll High School."

Dunkleberger added, "I'm not sure a 50-point increase is possible. But if we increase by 25 points, the kids at North Carroll are the beneficiaries."

The plan also states that all North Carroll students will pass the new state high school assessment test before the required deadline, and that 75 percent of the students will earn exemplary service awards for their student-service requirements.

Called The North Carroll Way, the project is a blueprint for the school to participate in a new accreditation process developed by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Dr. Susan Nicklas, director of institute-wide accreditation with the association, said the new procedure is designed for schools that want to "push the envelope."

"We expect the objectives they set to be things that will require them to sustain focus for a period as long as five years -- things that are difficult to achieve, but important to keep working on and struggling with," Nicklas said.

With the traditional accreditation process -- in use for 60 years -- schools must meet standards set by the Middle States #i Association. Evaluators, who visit schools every 10 years, rate schools on criteria such as having a certain number of books per student in the media center.

Being accountable

"You can have the best library in the world, but if the kids aren't learning, you've got a problem," Nicklas said. "What North Carroll has agreed to do has kind of raised the bar. They're saying, not only are we going to meet those standards, but we are going to hold ourselves accountable for producing the kind of student performance we think is important."

The Middle States Association accredits most high schools in its area -- New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Both the traditional and new accreditation procedures are voluntary.

The association first used the new process -- called Accreditation for Growth -- to rate five schools in 1997.

About 300 of the 3,500 schools evaluated by Middle States have elected to use AFG.

"We've had a couple of schools say, 'We're not going to use [AFG], because we're not going to be held accountable,' " Nicklas said. "It's kind of scary."

In Maryland, public schools accredited through the new process are Wheaton and Richard Montgomery high schools in Montgomery County and Lansdowne and Kenwood high schools Baltimore County. Loyola Blakefield, a Catholic school in Towson, also received AFG accreditation.

North Carroll High is the first Carroll school to elect to be evaluated through AFG. South Carroll High School plans to be evaluated under the process next year.

"This is a major undertaking for the next five years, as far as the direction of the school," said Richard Weaver, director of North Carroll's Career Connections program and coordinator of the AFG effort with Mary Ruhlman, a math teacher at the school.

In its AFG proposal, the school details specific projects and dates for meeting its goals. The first step in raising the SAT scores is to notify all qualified ninth- and 10th-graders by September about the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test, which prepares students for the SAT and determines National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. Other SAT improvement activities include the development of a schoolwide reading incentive program and summer reading program, holding SAT prep classes and after-school coaching sessions, and conducting polls to evaluate students' experiences taking the SAT.

More technology

The school's strategy for scoring 10 percent above the statewide average on the Maryland High School Assessment Program test calls for buying 150 graphing calculators, identifying struggling middle school students for summer programs, and volunteering to be a pilot school for state high school assessment tests. North Carroll plans to develop lessons and activities using new technologies, and hire a full-time technology teacher.

"It's really kind of exciting," Dunkleberger said. "Instead of looking at what's been done, we're looking at what we intend to do and where we intend to go."

Pub Date: 12/06/98

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