State wins federal approval for plan to make schools accountable

April 02, 2003|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Maryland became yesterday the seventh state to win federal approval for a plan to hold schools accountable for student performance, as required under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige made the announcement during a visit to Hillsmere Elementary School in Annapolis, a high-poverty school that made gains in reading assessments after Anne Arundel County officials singled it out years ago for low test scores.

Maryland and other states submitted accountability plans this year to show they will require the same academic standards of students from disadvantaged backgrounds as they do students from groups that traditionally do well. A key part of the federal law is the goal of making all children proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Each plan must show how a state intends to track the improvement of students grouped by race, poverty, lack of English proficiency and special education needs -- rather than just the overall performance of a school -- and set consequences for schools that fail to meet standards.

The accountability plans are a component of the education reform law, which aims to close achievement gaps between groups of students. The law also requires that teachers be well-trained and parents be given the choice to remove their children from inadequate schools.

Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said the next step will be for the state to determine what it means to be "proficient" in reading and math.

That will happen this summer, when officials analyze the results of the first Maryland School Assessment -- the state's new test, administered for the first time last month -- and decide what scores represent basic, proficient and advanced skills.

Among the major components of Maryland's accountability plan:

Every school must demonstrate progress in 19 categories, including the math and reading performances of five groups -- white, black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American -- as well as low-income, special education and students whose native languages are not English.

Schools that do not make progress in at least one category will be singled out, and those that fail to meet achievement targets will be subject to penalties and state oversight.

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