HOWARD County's African-American students have made significant progress in academic performance, with black pupils at several elementary and middle schools meeting or exceeding standards on state tests, according to the 2004 Howard County NAACP Education Report Card.
More "A" grades were given than in any other years the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been evaluating academic performance among black students.
"This reveals a breakthrough for African-American students," Natalie Woodson, the group's education committee chairwoman, told the Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday.
The report examined results from the 2004 Maryland State Assessment, administered to third-, fourth-,fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and 10th-graders in reading and math. The NAACP graded testing at each grade level by subject.
An "A" was given when 90 percent or more students in a particular grade scored at proficient or advanced levels on the high-stakes Maryland State Assessment.
Third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders - or a combination - met that standard in reading or math - or both - at Bellow Springs, Clarksville, Clemens Crossing, Hollifield Station, Ilchester, Pointers Run, Thunder Hill and Waterloo elementary schools; and Clarksville and Lime Kiln middle schools.
Closing the achievement gap among ethnic and racial groups is one of the greatest challenges facing not only the Howard school system but those across the country. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires that all students meet academic standards by 2014.
Howard County officials have set a goal of eliminating the achievement gap by 2007. Of the school system's 47,580 students, 19 percent are African-Americans.
"This is the fifth time I've gotten this report card," said board member Patricia S. Gordon, who joined the school board in 2000. "I'm so pleased that we have improved."
The NAACP report card also measured attendance, suspension and dropout rates of students by individual schools. The group also evaluated results on the High School Assessment with only students at River Hill High School receiving an "A" on the government test.
Overall, the graduation rate for black students was 88.14 percent in 2004. The dropout rate, however, increased to 2.76 percent of ninth-graders who did not finish high school from 1.20 percent in 2003.
Concerns remain, particularly in the area of math, Woodson said.
Courtney Watson, the school board chairman, agreed: "The more we work together, the more A's we'll see."
New union leader
A family consumer science teacher at Mount Hebron High School will be head of the Howard County teachers union, starting in July.
Ann De Lacy, vice president of the Howard County Education Association, defeated treasurer Nellie Hill during elections this month. De Lacy received 1,450 votes; Hill got 651.
"I think I have a lot of good ideas," said De Lacy, who has taught in Howard County for 33 years. "I'm able to work with people and create leaders in other people through empowerment."
De Lacy, who will take a leave from her teaching position, will serve a two-year term. She will replace Joe Staub, who was first elected president in 1999. Staub was prevented from running again because of term limits, which allow for a maximum of three two-year terms.
During her term, De Lacy said, she would like to focus on getting better short-term and long-term disability benefits, reforming teacher pensions on a statewide level and creating career advancement opportunities for teachers who are not interested in administrative positions.
The union represents about 4,000 certified teachers, guidance counselors and psychologists. Its support staff unit represents 1,600 employees, mostly instructional assistants.
Union members are voting on a tentative two-year contract that calls for a 3 percent pay raise next year and a 3.5 percent increase the following year. The general membership has until April 11 to ratify the agreement.
Current contracts expire June 30.
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