51 city schools receive money for test scores

State offers cash awards for achievement on exams

April 24, 2004|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

When the Baltimore school system's financial crisis squeezed classroom budgets this year, the teachers at Elmer A. Henderson Elementary School dug deeper into their pockets to buy instructional materials that the system could no longer afford.

Nearly every week, principal Jamie M. Brown would watch her teachers lug bags of school supplies into the building, never complaining about the added burden.

"It brought tears to my eyes," Brown said. "They never worried me about money."

So it took Brown just a few moments to decide what to do with the $4,000 the school earned for its performance on state tests last year: She will be filling the school's nearly empty shelves with enough paper, pencils, glue and other supplies to put Office Depot to shame.

Elmer A. Henderson was one of 51 city elementary and middle schools that were awarded $177,950 yesterday for their pupils' performances on the Maryland State Assessment exams. Across the state, 586 schools were recognized for outstanding performance.

The cash awards are part of the statewide School Performance Recognition Program, which honors schools for "making substantial and sustained progress toward achieving state standards."

At an awards ceremony yesterday, an exuberant schools Chief Executive Officer Bonnie S. Copeland praised the winning principals for their achievements during a time of financial hardship and turmoil in the school system. City schools have been forced to make cuts and tighten budgets because of a $58 million accumulated deficit.

"I'm almost speechless and teary-eyed," Copeland said yesterday, "because this is just tremendous work on your part."

On the Maryland School Assessment last year, which tests on the core subjects of reading and math, the city school system overall did not meet proficiency standards set by the State Department of Education. To meet the standard, a specified percentage of pupils in a school had to pass.

So it was a real boon, Copeland said, to be able to celebrate the schools that performed well. Elmer A. Anderson's pupils, for example, met the state standard in all areas on the federally mandated test.

Twenty-four city schools earned the $4,000 award, and 27 schools won awards of $2,926.82. Three city high schools - Polytechnic Institute, City College and Baltimore School for the Arts - won certificates for their achievement on state exams.

"What a stellar tribute to those of you in this room," said A. Skipp Sanders, deputy superintendent for the State Department of Education. "Under some really turbulent circumstances you've gone through, some elementary, middle and high schools have achieved."

City school board member Camay Calloway Murphy called the awards a "shot in the arm" for the beleaguered school system.

"This is a sign that maybe we're coming out of these dark clouds that have been over us for quite a while," Murphy said.

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