Students map own plan for success

Howard County

November 21, 2003|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

Student government representatives from Howard County high schools outlined vastly different improvement efforts and goals for the year - from ending dirty dancing to promoting diversity - during a luncheon yesterday with top education officials.

"This is truly an alignment that we've been fostering and promoting for a number of years," said Assistant Superintendent Roger L. Plunkett, pleased that the students' objectives were in line with the administration's.

"I'm confident that you can make a tremendous difference."

The teen speakers - one from each of the county's 11 high schools and the Homewood School, which teaches sixth through 12th grade - described hands-on projects at their schools.

At Atholton, students are working to improve their state assessment scores by 5 percent to 10 percent by creating a volunteer-staffed writing center for those struggling with English. They are also encouraging juniors and seniors with advanced math skills to become tutors.

Centennial students, striving to bring everyone's performance up to grade level, have created an academic intervention squad of 10 teachers who will hold twice-weekly remedial math and reading sessions.

Glenelg has asked students to sign an honor code. Hammond wants to eliminate smoking in the bathrooms, keep the cafeteria clean and stop provocative dancing at social gatherings.

"Many students are doing inappropriate moves, and it doesn't show the respect they should be showing themselves," said Latoya Brown, Hammond's student council president.

At the Homewood School, which serves students with emotional or behavioral problems or who have been under court supervision, the main goal was to trim out-of-school suspensions, which last year outnumbered the 156 students.

Alternatives to suspensions included lunch detention, cafeteria cleanup and Saturday school.

At Howard High, which recently was added to a list of struggling schools, student government President Arin Foreman told the crowd that the improvement plan was "thick and detailed."

A few of the goals include increasing SAT participation from 65 percent to 80 percent and having students sign an honor code today.

"We plan to help Howard reach its potential," Foreman said.

Long Reach, another struggling school, is offering anger-management classes and tutorials for "at-risk students."

Mount Hebron is trying to improve its attendance rate and ensure that the racial makeup of students in advanced classes matches the school's population.

Oakland Mills has created an after-school homework club, Reservoir is providing transportation for those who want to participate in extracurricular activities, and Wilde Lake is working with administrators on possible changes.

At River Hill High School, which has never had a year without a student death or someone affiliated with the school dying, the focus is on ending drug and alcohol use, said the student government President Ryan Lauer.

"That's our main goal, and it's a big one," Lauer said.

The school has brought in drug-sniffing dogs, plans to have recovering addicts speak to students and will ask people to promise to stay sober at the prom.

"All of the events we've had at River Hill have been drug-free this year, and we'd like to continue to keep it that way," Lauer said.

The biannual gathering of student council delegates, Board of Education members and school system staff members gives the students a chance to exchange ideas with their adult counterparts. "You're the reason we're doing our work," said Sandra H. French, chairman of the Board of Education.

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