Seeking methods to boost scores

Performance of schools failing to meet goals will be scrutinized


Anne Arundel County educators plan to take a closer look at the middle schools' curriculum after six of those schools were cited for failing to meet goals on standardized tests.

Two elementary schools also didn't meet "adequate yearly progress," according to results released Wednesday by the Maryland State Department of Education. Last year, all 76 met the standard on the Maryland State Assessments in math and reading.

Southgate Elementary School and KIPP Harbor Academy - a first-year charter school for fifth-graders - came up short for the first time and are considered "on alert." At Southgate, special education students failed to make the grade; for KIPP, the entire school population did.

In accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the whole school has to meet the increasingly stringent standards, as do subgroups - including certain racial groups, special education students and children with limited English-speaking skills - or the school can be placed on a state watch list for eventual restructuring.

All of the schools that don't meet the standards for a second straight year are required to create a "school improvement plan."

Among Anne Arundel's 20 middle schools, Annapolis, Lindale and Marley have failed to hit the target for three years in a row. If that happens for a fourth consecutive year, they could face "corrective action," such as replacing the school's staff.

Bates Middle School didn't meet standards two years in a row, and Chesapeake Bay and Corkran middle schools didn't make enough progress for the first time.

Brooklyn Park Middle remains on the state watch list; it made adequate progress this year but did not last year.

Anne Arundel's struggles with educating sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are part of a statewide trend: A third of Maryland's middle schools are on the watch list.

Superintendent Kevin Maxwell said he wasn't "overly alarmed" by the middle schools' status.

"I certainly want us to explore other ways to boost our middle school performance," Maxwell said in a statement. "I plan to work with our curriculum and instruction division to examine what steps we can take to offer more resources and training to our teachers and our middle school students."

According to a school system spokesman, the look at middle school curriculum is, so far, in the planning stages.

"It's certainly on the school system's radar," said Tony Ruffin, the spokesman.

Beverly Pish, executive director of accountability, testing and research for the school system, said social factors, along with the increasing difficulty of the tests, are possible reasons that middle school students don't seem to do as well as the county's elementary school students.

"The bar has been raised each year, and the rigor continues to be lifted," she said. "We want to make sure the curriculum corresponds with that."

Waugh Chapel Elementary School and Meade Middle School also were removed from the state watch list. They made adequate progress on state standards for two years in a row.

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