Harford schools post gains over last year Personal instruction noted as reason for students' progress

December 09, 1998|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

Harford County officials cite curriculum reforms and a general commitment to personalized instruction for Harford's strong performance on the state's annual school report card, with Harford finishing second this year to Howard County, up from fourth last year.

"Our job now is to stay focused," said Harford School Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas, who yesterday announced results of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) at Jarrettsville Elementary School. "We cannot afford to send even one of our students out of our school system without the tools to be successful."

Of the almost 9,000 Harford students who took the reading, writing, language usage, math, science and social studies tests, 58.3 percent achieved at least satisfactory scores.

That performance -- a 4.8 percentage-point gain over last year, and an increase of almost 20 percentage points since 1993 -- means the county school system is "approaching" the state's goal of 70 percent by 2000, according to the report.

School board member Lt. Col. Eugene Chandler said officials are striving to make Harford County the best in the state. "We have mandated going higher," Chandler said. "I visualize Harford making as much progress next year as we did this year, and I believe we can do it."

Harford's third-graders ranked third statewide in reading, second writing, third in language, second in math, third in science and third in social studies. Fifth-graders were third in reading, writing, language and science and second in math and social studies.

Eighth-graders finished first in the state in language, second in writing and social studies, third in science, tied for fourth in reading and were sixth in math.

Deborah J. Heiberger, Harford's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said officials have fine-tuned the hTC curriculum since 1991 with the advice and involvement of parents and other citizens.

"I believe that the MSPAP results show that we have made some sound decisions in our strategic planning," Heiberger said.

School officials also released data showing that the dropout rate -- 3.05 percent -- is the lowest it has been in Harford in 10 years.

And Harford's ninth- and 11th-graders continued to score "satisfactory" or "excellent" in functional tests, which are required for high school graduation, with the exception of the citizenship tests, on which they did not meet the standards.

"We will be analyzing the data," Haas said. "We need to identify the barriers that still prevent some of our students from being successful and strategize ways to help those students."

Officials said Harford's consistent improvement comes even though it ranks 17th in per-student spending in the state -- $5,946 per pupil, compared with $6,988 per pupil in Howard County and $6,584 per pupil statewide.

"When you look at the spending per pupil and how much we are able to pay our teachers, you know that it is nothing but dedication that is at work here," said Chandler, the school board member. "The teachers could go to other school systems and be paid more money, yet they stay here year after year producing good results."

Pub Date: 12/09/98

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