Council creates school panel

Group to focus on ways to retain students, boost performance at 11 feeder schools

July 14, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Annapolis will get a new voice on educational issues starting this fall when a city council-appointed commission begins advocating for the needs of the 11 schools in the city feeder system.

The new commission, approved unanimously by the council on Monday, will make recommendations to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education and superintendent.

Members want to focus on getting mentors and tutors for students in the lower-performing schools and on after-school activities.

Council members have been concerned about the disparity in test scores and overall academic achievement between city feeder schools - those that feed into Annapolis High - and other county schools.

"We are trying to keep our kids in public schools from dropping out or going to private schools," said Alderman Wayne Taylor, a Ward 4 Democrat who introduced the bill and will serve on the commission. "This is a call to action, and as a city we are prepared to move forward."

For the past three years, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's education committee has served a similar role.

The committee also worked with nonprofit organizations, raising money for books and musical instruments, and helped to develop a curriculum about air pollution for fourth-graders.

Residents of the city's eight wards and an alderman will make up the new commission.

Members of the current education committee will be named to the new one, which will be in place before the start of the school year.

"The Annapolis cluster system doesn't truly have any form of representation on the board of education; nobody is speaking up about the issues and concerns," Taylor said. "The commission will act as a voice to the board and the superintendent."

While test scores have improved over the last few years, achievement gaps remain.

At Annapolis Middle School, 46.7 percent of eighth-graders tested at or above the proficient level in math this year. At Wiley H. Bates, 38.8 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above the proficient level. Countywide, 69.2 percent of eighth-graders tested at or above the proficient level this year.

Taylor pointed to unequal access.

"We have a large group of kids that come out of homes with no computers. They don't have tutors, so they have no access to additional information," Taylor said. "If they don't understand, they fall behind and the tests show that."

Eugene Peterson, vice president of the county's Board of Education, said that in the past, the board has neglected the city's school system.

"A lot of us try to advocate and this will focus the effort to give critical attention and resources to these kids," Peterson said.

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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