11 school-reform plans OK'd by city

Board moves to allay concerns by the state

December 21, 2004|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

The city school board approved plans yesterday to reform 11 struggling elementary schools in a bid to allay concerns raised by the State Board of Education, which has rejected previous versions of the plans.

The city board originally had not planned to vote on the "restructuring" plans, which officials are required to create for poorly performing schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But this month, the state board refused to take a vote on the matter after learning the plans had not received local approval.

The delay in approval of the plans has led the state to withhold funds from the 11 schools, said Linda Chinnia, the city schools' chief academic officer.

The schools have begun to make reforms, including hiring restructuring specialists, but have not implemented some teacher training and academic intervention programs that are to be paid for using the state funds, city school officials said.

Schools first submitted their plans to the state nearly 10 months ago. City school officials said they have been forced to revise plans because the State Department of Education changed its requirements along the way. State education officials, however, said plans have been sent back to the city because they were deemed unsatisfactory.

Under No Child Left Behind, state officials are responsible for determining whether schools meet standards for attendance and for math and reading performance. When schools fail for several years in a row, the state begins to monitor a restructuring process in the schools.

Across Maryland, 47 schools are undergoing restructuring, including 39 Baltimore schools.

At a meeting Dec. 8, board members complained about inaccuracies and typographical errors in the plans for the 11 city schools, the only ones whose plans have not been approved.

"I should not be the one asking the questions," Dunbar Brooks, the state board's vice president, said at the meeting. "The [Baltimore] Board of School Commissioners should have seen this before me. I don't want to micromanage, sitting on the state board."

Baltimore schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland told the state board that her staff had followed a long-standing practice of submitting restructuring plans to the city board for review only. But at the insistence of the state board, Copeland agreed to ask the city board to take formal action on the plans.

"I sat on a local board," said state school board member Jo Ann T. Bell, a former Prince George's County school board member. "I would have never let something go [to the state] without having voted on it."

The elementary schools awaiting state approval of plans are: Beechfield, Callaway, Collington, Commodore John Rogers, Edgewood, Highlandtown, Johnston Square, Liberty, Mary E. Rodman, Samuel F.B. Morse and Yorkwood.

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