6 schools fall short of state-ordered progress


August 17, 2008|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV

Six schools in Howard County fell short of meeting state-ordered progress goals in the past year and were placed on a list of underperforming schools, despite appeals filed by county education officials.

The elementary schools were Bollman Bridge in Jessup and Stevens Forest in Columbia. The middle schools were Harper's Choice in Columbia, Patuxent Valley in Jessup, Murray Hill in Laurel and Oakland Mills in Columbia.

At Bollman Bridge, students who receive free or reduced-price lunches, and those in special-education programs did not meet the proficiency standard in math, which led to the school's being placed on the Adequate Yearly Progress list. At Stevens Forest and Harper's Choice, special-education students did not meet the proficiency standard in math, while special-education students at Patuxent Valley did not meet the standard in reading.

Students who receive free and reduced-price lunches at Oakland Mills Middle did not meet the standard in reading. And while students at Murray Hill met the proficiency standards in mathematics and reading this year, the school failed to achieve adequate progress last year. A school must reach proficiency goals two years running to be removed from the APY list.

School system officials said that there are plans to redirect additional support to the schools on the list.

"This system has rallied around these schools and has put the [measures] in place to help them succeed next year," said Portia White, the county school system's coordinator of testing.

The AYP measure is determined by factors that include standardized tests scores and is used, among other things, to determine whether parents can transfer their children to higher-performing schools.

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said there was no need for alarm over the schools not making adequate yearly progress.

"All of these schools have successfully met our local standard of having 70 percent or more of their students scoring at proficient or above in both reading and mathematics," Cousin said in a prepared statement. "In most cases, these schools missed AYP by only a few students."

'Here to serve'

A number of top-ranking school system officials stepped out of their roles as administrators and picked up food service utensils Thursday as they served lunch to teachers during an event called "We Are Here to Serve You."

The lunch was part of the school system's annual new-teacher orientation, held over four days at Reservoir High School. Deputy Superintendent Sandra Erickson said she was looking forward to the change of pace.

"When I get there, I stand in front of the food they tell me to and serve," she said right before going to the lunch. "I just smile and hand out the food."

327 new teachers

Howard County will welcome 327 new teachers this school year from various backgrounds and experiences.

Of the new hires, 42 are children of teachers and 60 are native Marylanders. Twenty-one states other than Maryland are represented in the latest crop, which also has an international flair, including natives of Canada, China, Columbia, Denmark, Germany, India, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Singapore. Many of the new hires are making a career change, having worked as cooks, advertising copywriters, choreographers, chemical engineers, youth ministers and professional musicians.


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