County considers appeal on test result

Special-education students at 3 schools missed geometry goal

Smith says more help will be offered

August 24, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County schools officials will likely appeal a ruling that special-education students at three county high schools did not meet state standards on part of the Maryland School Assessments, officials said yesterday.

Arundel, North County and Glen Burnie high schools missed targets on the geometry exam, which 10th-graders took last spring.

Superintendent Eric J. Smith said the test results have identified a problem, and the school system would focus more resources toward additional support, such as co-teaching, in which a regular teacher teams with a special-education teacher.

"We're going to be able to succeed with these kids before they graduate," he said.

School officials will base their appeal on a recent federal decision that would allow as many as 2 percent of the system's students to take a modified version of the MSA because of a learning disability.

The difference between missing and reaching the target hinges on a few students, said Adam C. Milam, Anne Arundel's coordinator of research. For example, 59 special-education students took the geometry test; last year, 10 did.

The geometry exam fulfills part of the testing requirement under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Each year, an increasing percentage of students must reach advanced or proficient levels on the test for the schools to show they are achieving "adequate yearly progress."

County education officials also announced yesterday that Anne Arundel high school students surpassed state averages on three High School Assessment exams -- biology, algebra and government -- which students, starting with the Class of 2009, will have to pass to earn a diploma. Students surpassed state averages on all three, although performance dropped slightly countywide on the algebra and biology tests this year.

In November, the State Department of Education will release results of the English HSA, which is also considered when determining annual progress results. Ninth-graders took the test for the first time this year, and state education officials still need to set the standards to grade it.

Performance by minority students mirrored the county's overall results on the three HSAs and geometry test. For example, African-American students performed better than last year on the geometry and government exams, but fared worse on the algebra and biology tests.

Progress

Four traditional high schools -- Annapolis, Meade, North County and Old Mill -- and Glen Burnie Evening High School missed state goals on either the reading or geometry test last year, but achieved them this spring. If they successfully reach the targets for two consecutive years, the schools can go without state monitoring.

White students at South River Evening High School, which offers several classes a semester, did not meet standards on the geometry tests.

Graduation rates

Mary E. Moss Academy, an alternative high school for students removed from traditional high schools for disciplinary sanctions, and Severna Park Evening High School did not meet state targets for graduation rates.

However, "when applying graduation rate to schools with that kind of high mobility, it can be misleading," Milam said. "Any time you have a kid moving out, it's a dropout."

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