Six Howard County elementary schools have worked their way off a list of those failing to meet federal standards, but an alternative school for students who struggled in traditional classrooms has been added to the list and two middle schools face greater scrutiny.
State education officials, who are charged with implementing the federal No Child Left Behind Act, released the annual list of troubled schools yesterday.
More than 30 Baltimore schools that have failed to meet standards for several years in a row will be forced by federal law to undergo a major overhaul this year. Parents and students will begin seeing new staff, principals and curriculum, particularly in the middle and high schools trying to meet new requirements, city school officials said.
Despite concerns about the city schools that did not make the grade, a large number of schools in the region have made great strides, including the six in Howard: Bryant Woods, Cradlerock (formerly Dasher Green-Owen Brown), Guilford, Phelps Luck, Swansfield and Talbott Springs elementaries.
As a reward for two years of hard work, an administrative burden has been lifted, said Portia White, coordinator of testing for Howard County schools.
"For practical reasons, it means [these schools] don't have the pressure; they don't have the paperwork," she said.
However, the Homewood School, an alternative learning center for children in middle and high school who have difficulty in traditional classroom settings because of legal infractions, behavior challenges or emotional disabilities, has been added to the list of troubled schools. Because it did not show improvement over two consecutive years, Homewood will enter the state's "school improvement program," which provides extra resources in exchange for required academic results.
Schools in the program that fail to improve eventually face sanctions, including the elimination of federal funding.
Principal Frank V. Eastham said he was not surprised because by definition his students did not succeed in other programs.
"Part of our entrance criteria is that students aren't performing well," he said. He added that the test may not be the best tool to measure their achievement, particularly since the population is so small.
For the first time, eighth-graders in special education programs at Elkridge Landing and Murray Hill middle schools did not make "adequate yearly progress" targets on the reading component of the Maryland State Assessments.
Two of 27 special education eighth-graders at Elkridge Landing surpassed basic reading levels, compared with about 31 percent of the population last year. And about 8 percent - two of 24 special education eighth-graders - at Murray Hill Middle were considered proficient or advanced in reading, down from nearly 31 percent.
If the two middle schools fail to make progress for two consecutive years, they would be added to the failing schools' list.
Elkridge Landing Principal Thomas Saunders said data from tests of additional grades will help determine where to focus their efforts. "The exciting thing about this coming year is we will have the results from the sixth and seventh grade as well," he said. "This year, we didn't have that luxury."
Other schools systems saw progress in the test results.
All of Carroll County schools met the standards, the only system in the region that can claim that distinction.
In Baltimore County, seven schools failed to meet the academic targets set by the state. "For a school system this size [more than 160 schools], I think that's a remarkable accomplishment," said Baltimore County school system spokesman Charles A. Herndon.
Among the 46 Baltimore County schools that did not make adequate progress last year, all except two - Sandalwood Elementary in Essex and Evening High School - made adequate progress this year. Evening High is not a single school but a countywide program serving students who have been unsuccessful in traditional academic settings.
Only two middle schools in Harford County - Edgewood and Aberdeen middle schools - failed to meet the standards, and all of the county's 32 elementary schools and 10 high schools passed. The two schools failed to meet standards because either poor or special education students did not pass the tests.
Eleven Anne Arundel schools are on the failing list, with three schools added and three taken off this year. Despite struggles in some schools, administrators in Arundel said they were pleased with the overall results.
"We feel really positive that the overwhelming majority of schools showed a marked increase in achievement," said Jonathan Brice, spokesman for the Arundel schools.
And in the city, seven schools did well enough two years in a row to escape the failing list, while four were added.
Of more than 60 schools that had not met standards for at least two years in a row, 30 improved this year. "I really do feel, on balance, this is really more good news," said the chief executive officer, Bonnie Copeland.