Report maps schools' needs

Study shows blacks and Hispanics trailing in reading and math

November 17, 2006|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,sun reporter

Anne Arundel County middle school pupils aren't making consistent progress on state assessments in reading and math. Black and Hispanic pupils aren't doing as well as others on those tests, and males in those groups have the county's lowest graduation rates.

And, though more pupils are taking Advanced Placement courses, fewer are passing them.

Those findings are among the information compiled in the "State of the School System Report" presented to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education this week.

The report is the first in a series that is expected to give board members a road map for improving the school system and student achievement.

Beverly Pish, the school system's executive director of accountability, assessment and research, presented the report to the board Wednesday.

"I looked at it as where we are right now, a snapshot," Pish said. "Next is where [do] we want to go and what are we doing?"

At its Dec. 6 meeting, the board will receive another report that will talk about what the school system is doing in instruction.

"It's nice to see the data in a way that I understood," Tricia Johnson, board president, said of the report. "But the next step is the vital part. But now that we know where we stand and our strengths and weaknesses, we can know how to proceed."

Johnson said that board members asked for the reports this fall because they wanted Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell to give his opinion on where the school system stands and eventually offer a plan to the board of what to do.

"We can't make informed decisions without knowing the state of a lot of issues out there, to develop the system's specific goals," Johnson said.

Board members and Maxwell emphasized that this week's report was just a starting point.

"On Dec. 6, we will come back to `Where do we go from here,'" Maxwell said.

Pish said the data presented were culled from test scores on the Maryland School Assessments and High School Assessments, scores and participation rates on the SAT and ACT, and the school system's graduation and dropout rates.

"We wanted to lay it out to the board and the audience so that they would have a complete understanding of No Child Left Behind [federal law] and how the state sets annual measurable objectives" to comply with it, Pish said.

But board member Michael Leahy said at Wednesday's meeting that he'd received calls from parents who had looked at the report online and were confused by it.

Some board members said they wanted to see data on student academic eligibility - the number of students allowed or barred from participating in extracurricular activities because of their grades - but Maxwell told the board that those statistics were still being compiled.

Board members said they wanted to know how many graduates of county high schools who attend Anne Arundel Community College are required to take remedial courses.

Board member Victor E. Bernson Jr., who serves on the Maryland Higher Education Commission, said he'd requested the information. Maxwell added that the school system staff is cultivating a closer relationship with the community college.

In addition to the State of the Schools report, a committee will compile recommendations from the Middle School Summit held last month. The board hopes to receive those sometime next month, Johnson said.

The superintendent is expected to present a proposal for school redistricting next month, to make recommendations on high school and middle school schedules, and to come up with a plan for magnet and specialty schools in the county.

"This board has always asked for the whole picture. That's what this is about," Johnson said. "By the end of the school year, we hope to have a picture of where the needs are and how we can best address them. Then we can attack each part of that. It can't all happen at once. It can't all happen overnight."

Maxwell said at the board meeting that he hopes to reach some consensus with the community as long-term plans for the school system are developed.

"My hope is that we're going to come together," Maxwell said. "There are some fairly ambitious discussions under way that are going to shape the future of this county."

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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