Howard High joins struggling schools list

Intervention means additional funds, focus

Ellicott City

October 02, 2003|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

Howard High School has been added to a list of struggling schools selected for intervention by the county Department of Education because of insufficient student performance.

"When you compare Howard's data with the rest of the county, [it is apparent] we have to provide additional resources," said Roger Plunkett, assistant superintendent for administration.

The Ellicott City high school did not make the progress last year that system officials had hoped to see in various areas, Plunkett said, such as having a higher percentage of students taking advanced-placement courses and raising test scores of special education students.

"We want to move now so that we don't waste this year in meeting those kids' needs," he added. "People have to understand simply that we're being pro-active instead of reactive."

Howard High's principal, Mary Day, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

One parent worries that the school system's action could stigmatize students.

"I don't like schools to be labeled `focus schools' because it's labeling them as deficient," said Melody Higgins, whose daughter is in the 11th grade at Howard High. "But if it will get them more resources, it could be a good thing."

Higgins said her daughter is using a history textbook held together with duct tape and that ends during the Reagan administration.

"Teachers are doing a great job with what they have to work with, but they're in a deficit position," Higgins said. "They don't have what they need to teach these kids, and then the scores are lower and you wonder why. What kind of mess is that?"

Plunkett said Howard has the same resources as other county schools, but it will soon have more. Part of being designated a school improvement unit (SIU) means additional funds and focus will be available.

The school's educators and classes are now under review to make sure they meet the county's goals, and staff members can expect extensive professional development to improve their skills, he said.

"Being an SIU school is not a stigma," Plunkett said. "It's an opportunity for everyone to work together to ensure the success of each child in that building. And that's what No Child Left Behind is all about."

The school system launched an accelerated achievement plan in March last year that aims to elevate all students to state standards by 2007. Fifteen lower-performing schools - eight elementary schools, five middle schools and two high schools - were chosen to receive intensive support, and Howard High has been added to that group.

Howard High will hold a school-improvement seminar for parents from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 14.

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