Balto. Co. group offers ideas on achievement

Recommendations target ways to help minorities

January 17, 2003|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County's Minority Achievement Advisory Group urged principals at poorly performing schools yesterday to observe classes more frequently and limit the number of students in hallways to help improve standardized test scores.

The group submitted the ideas to Superintendent Joe A. Hairston and the Board of Education as part of a package of recommendations. The package was delivered a day after the Randallstown High PTSA issued its suggestions.

"If conditions are to improve for our children, there must be a comprehensive, cooperative plan involving community, schools, parents, students and the administration," said Ella White Campbell, chairwoman of the 28-member advisory group.

Results from Maryland's High School Assessments showed that Milford Mill Academy and Chesapeake, Randallstown and Woodlawn high schools ranked among the worst in the state. In addition, several students at Milford Mill and Randallstown told The Sun recently about crowded and dangerous hallways and classes that are ruined by disruptive classmates.

The test results and the students' accounts have sparked discussions at school system headquarters about possible remedies and prompted PTAs, community groups and business associations on the county's west side to mobilize.

Yesterday, Hairston praised the two groups for offering solutions. "I think we have a workable situation where the community and the school can begin to work together," he said.

The Minority Achievement Advisory Group released 26 recommendations, several of which were aimed at bolstering leadership in the schools.

One called for reviewing the preparation and selection of principals. Another urged principals to make more unannounced visits to classrooms to monitor teaching.

Other recommendations sought to strengthen parent and community involvement. They suggested that principals document communications with parents on standardized tests, install more telephone lines so parents can get through to schools, and furnish a directory of teachers' telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.

A third set of recommendations focused on disruptive students. They included assigning students who repeatedly misbehave to night or Saturday classes - an idea suggested by Randallstown's PTSA - and using students as hall monitors.

The group also recommended steps to minimize hallway congestion, such as placing ninth-graders in their own wing and assigning half-day students to portable classrooms.

At a meeting with the advisory group last week, principals said that large numbers of inexperienced teachers and poor preparation of some incoming ninth-graders contributed to problems at their schools.

To address those issues, the advisory group recommended giving high school principals and teachers opportunities to talk with their middle and elementary school counterparts.

Like Randallstown High's PTSA, it suggested dismissing school once a month for an unspecified amount of time to provide staff development for inexperienced teachers.

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