Phoenix Center Overhaul

New Staff, Technology Aim To Help School Meet Standards

July 05, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

The Phoenix Center in Annapolis, a school serving emotionally disturbed students in kindergarten through 12th grade that has missed state testing mandates for four consecutive years, is set to undergo an overhaul that will bring new staff and technology to the school.

The school will receive a testing coordinator, an additional classroom teacher and technology like interactive SMART boards as it attempts to meet rising targets each year for reading test scores, and attendance and graduation rates under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Also, the positions of 15 teaching assistants will be reclassified as special education support technicians. The teaching assistants can apply for those jobs, but are guaranteed jobs elsewhere in the school system.

"We've been working with the State Department of Education and our special education division to try to put in place the enhancements at Phoenix that will not only bring about higher test scores, but provide the support and instructional delivery that will most help these students," said Bob Mosier, a spokesman for the county schools.

The Phoenix Center, which enrolls 80 students, has met the standards once since the law passed in 2004. The recommended changes at the school give it another year to meet the standards. If it fails again, the school will undergo a state-mandated overhaul.

In 2008, the school failed to make AYP, or adequately yearly progress, as defined by the federal government among all students in reading.

But with a student body of just 80, many of whom transfer out of the school to comprehensive schools when they show academic improvement, school officials say holding these students to rigid federal standards is difficult.

"Students at Phoenix can come and go," Mosier said. "When they go back to a comprehensive school, for instance, their test scores go with them."

Though contingent on funding, the Phoenix Center is poised for a move. A project to build a new facility for Germantown Elementary School in Annapolis is moving forward with a construction start date scheduled for 2010. The old Germantown building would then be renovated and become the new home for the Phoenix Center.

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