Nearly 70 percent of Carroll County's 39 public schools have earned awards from the Maryland State Department of Education in the form of citations and grants for their academic achievement as measured by the state's school performance program.
Of the 26 Carroll schools the state chose, several received monetary awards, some as much as $4,000, that will pay for instructional materials, staff development, student incentives, technology and building beautification projects.
"Each of the 26 schools was recognized for improvement in student achievement," said Barry Gelsinger, assistant superintendent of instruction. "That does not mean those that were not awarded did not achieve."
All seven Carroll high schools won certificates of merit. Six middle schools and 10 elementary schools each received $2,927. Three elementaries - Charles Carroll, Westminster and William Winchester - won the $4,000 top prize.
The state bases the awards on either high test scores or improvement in test scores on last year's Maryland School Assessment. The awards, a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, recognized 586 schools throughout the state. Each school that receives a cash award must use the grant in ways that help students continue to improve, Gelsinger said.
"We are very proud of our students and staff," said Mark Vigliotti, principal at William Winchester in Westminster, a school that has won the state recognition for the past three years. "Our children walk in the door ready to learn, and we have high expectations and the resources in place to help the students learn."
The school will purchase reading materials to help pupils improve fluency and comprehension. It will also add to its nonfiction collection, focusing particularly on books that deal with subjects the children are studying, he said.
Vigliotti calls the school's population "a true reflection of society" because of its minorities, special education pupils, children with limited English proficiency and those at the poverty level. The state recognizes overall achievement and improvement among those subgroups.
At Westminster Elementary, vice principal Dot Dutterer said the award is the result of a school-wide effort.
"This does not reflect just one grade level," Dutterer said. "It is an example of true collaboration and cooperation. It shows that everybody is working hard and together to be part of the total product."
Cathy Hood, principal at Oklahoma Road Middle School, is surveying the staff to determine the best use for the nearly $3,000 the Eldersburg school won. With last year's award, several teachers set up Web pages for pupils and parents, and eight others participated in a staff-development program that dealt with hands-on instruction.
"We are excited about winning two years in a row, and we are working diligently to move forward," Hood said.
The legislature did not include the grants in next year's budget, so this will be the last year for many of the financial awards. Title I schools, such as William Winchester, that obtain extra funding to help disadvantaged students, could receive the awards one final time because the state has leftover federal funds available for those schools.
"We are absolutely excited that two-thirds of our schools were acknowledged," Gelsinger said. "We have phenomenal teachers committed to our students. We have one of the lowest per pupil expenditures, yet we are one of the top-performing school systems in the state."