Hairston Points To School Gains, Challenges Ahead

August 22, 2009|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,arin.gencer@baltsun.com

During his annual address to hundreds of Baltimore County school administrators and teachers, Superintendent Joe A. Hairston emphasized the need to prepare students for a future that they will have a hand in shaping.

"The community we serve has evolved," Hairston said at Chesapeake High School in Essex on Friday morning. "The world in which we live has transformed."

Hairston described the demographic changes: County schools have gone from a fairly homogenous student body in the 1970s to one where traditional minority groups now constitute a majority. He also highlighted the changed working landscape: Where students once might have earned decent pay even without a diploma, "our graduates will enter a world that is far more demanding and competitive than previous generations faced," Hairston said. "They must be more prepared than ever before."

District initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as a focus on rigorous classes and Advanced Placement, are part of the effort to make sure that happens, the superintendent said.

Pointing to specific strides made in the past year, Hairston stressed that only five seniors in the Class of 2009 failed to meet the High School Assessment graduation requirement.

"This is clear evidence that both students and adults can perform at a higher level when we simply are clear and consistent about what we expect of them," Hairston said.

He also pointed to student gains at Woodlawn Middle School, which recently exited the state's school-improvement list after making adequate yearly progress again. Woodlawn was the first school in the county warned of a state takeover eight years ago, and the first to implement a restructuring plan.

"We did this on our own, without the assistance of 'turnaround specialists' from the outside," Hairston said. "We did this with Baltimore County public school administrators, Baltimore County public school teachers and the Baltimore County community."

The address to district leaders is "one of the few opportunities we have to let them know where we stand in the larger scheme of things," Hairston said in an interview, referring to the greater emphasis, at the national and state levels, on accountability, higher standards and improving teacher quality. "There's nothing the president is saying, or the secretary of education is saying, or the governor is saying is expected, that we don't have in place."

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