- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2003

Montgomery County officials said yesterday that 10 public schools on the state’s “watch list” are improving in math and reading scores and that continued progress could remove them from the list next year.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said the schools, the poorest in the county, have undergone educational reforms that have led to stronger teaching and more effective curricula.

“Right now, a lot of things are pointing in the right direction,” he said.

Mr. Weast made his announcement after a Maryland State Department of Education report yesterday that stated that 13 schools, including one in Prince George’s County, were removed from the list of 144.

None of the Montgomery County schools was removed from the list.

However, Mr. Weast said Broad Acres, Burnt Mills and Wheaton Woods elementary schools have done well and might come under consideration to be taken off the list. All student groups at Broad Acres and Burnt Mills elementary schools in Silver Spring passed the reading and math tests.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires schools to meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) standards in reading and math. Those failing to meet the standards for several years could undergo “restructuring.”

He said Wheaton Woods in Rockville appeared ready to come off the list this year but that a recalculation showed that students with limited English skills did not meet state standards.

Mr. Weast highlighted Broad Acres Elementary in Silver Spring, where the white student population is less than 1 percent and 27 percent of students participate in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. However, every student passed the reading and math tests in the spring’s Maryland School Assessments.

“I think it really sends a pretty good message when you have a school that doesn’t have enough Caucasians [to make a subgroup] and it hits everything,” Mr. Weast said.

The test results are issued for the entire student body and for the subgroups: African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, special education, white, limited English proficient and students receiving free or reduced-price meals.

The test is given to third-, fifth-, eighth- and 10th-graders.

The state has given information only on whether schools have passed, and test scores for individuals and groups will come later.

Last school year, the state gave the Maryland School Assessment test in place of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, which did not meet standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Broad Acres principal Jody Leleck said administrators and teachers have been working together for about three years to improve students’ performances.

She said teachers and assistants take skilled-teaching classes and closely monitor students, and that there are many assessment tests for the children.

“I think there’s no magic bullet to school reform,” she said. “We really need to look at who the children are.”

Seven other schools on the list failed to meet the goals in one subgroup.

The schools will have to provide supplemental services such as tutoring or mentoring for at least two more years if parents want the services for their children.

Mr. Weast also asked Broad Acres administrators and teachers to help make progress by staying at the school for three years to maintain continuity among the faculty and in the curriculum.

A Prince George’s County spokeswoman did not return a phone call yesterday about the schools on the state list.

In a written statement, state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said schools are improving because of “good teaching, high standards and aligned curriculum.”

“We need to concentrate on our schools that are still in need of improvement and provide them with the resources necessary to leave that designation behind,” she said.

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