Fifty-one Anne Arundel County elementary and middle schools have reaped more than $155,000 in cash prizes from the state for doing well on last year's standardized tests - a final bounty from a rewards program that is fizzling out because of a lack of funds.
No matter how well pupils did on the Maryland School Assessments last month, most schools won't see a penny for those efforts next year.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Tuesday's edition of The Sun about Anne Arundel County schools rewarded for performing well on state tests contained two inaccurate time references. The Maryland School Assessments were administered in March, and the General Assembly approved the state budget last month. The Sun regrets the errors.
There will be no new federal funds to support the state's School Performance Recognition Program, which began in 1997. And state dollars for the program were omitted from the budget approved by the General Assembly this month, state school officials said.
Across Maryland, 528 schools have been awarded prizes of $2,900 or $4,000 for either high overall test scores or improvement in the scores of disadvantaged pupils. Fifty-eight high schools - including Severna Park and South River in Anne Arundel - received certificates of recognition but did not receive money.
Schools use the prizes to pay for extras they can't normally afford, such as classroom decorations, musical instruments, field trips or professional development for teachers.
State school officials say they are disappointed by the loss of funding but are looking for other ways to give schools a pat on the back.
"I think that we can still recognize schools without dollars and do it in a way that people feel appreciated," said Ronald A. Peiffer, deputy superintendent of Maryland schools.
Next year, cash rewards paid for by leftover federal funds will go out one last time to Title I schools, which have large percentages of needy children. But non-Title I schools, whose prizes are paid out of the state's general fund, will not receive money.
School principals took news of the program's demise in stride, although they say the extra funds have been a help.
Principal Peter Zimmer and his school improvement team at Crofton Woods Elementary are debating how to use the school's $2,900 award. In the past, the above-average school hired substitutes to give teachers an extra day to work with colleagues and reflect on teaching methods. He said the cash prize is "not something that we count on."
The money likely will be sorely missed at Van Bokkelen Elementary, a struggling Title I school that received $33,000 one year for making academic gains, according to Principal Rose Tasker. Some of the money was used to buy musical instruments because many pupils cannot afford rental fees.
This year, Van Bokkelen received $4,000 for its 2003 MSA scores, despite some fifth-grade pupils' narrowly missing state goals on the math portion of the test. Scores had improved enough overall for Van Bokkelen to qualify for the award.
"For the state to recognize us for making progress, we were happy," Tasker said.
Anne Arundel award winners
Schools honored by Maryland's School Performance Recognition Program for high achievement or improvement on the 2003 Maryland School Assessment.
Cape St. Claire
Glen Burnie Park
Windsor FarmMiddle schools
Severna ParkSpecial schools
Central Special Education CenterHigh schools