School 'report card' would carry cash rewards -- and punishment State board of education considers a program to grade public schools.


Public schools that fail to improve performance on a variety of state standards by 1997 could face penalties -- including closure -- under a draft report presented to the state Board of Education.

But the same plan proposes rewards, including cash payments, for schools that demonstrate their "excellence" under standards set by the Maryland School Performance Program.

The draft report, given to the state board yesterday, grew out of a call for statewide school accreditation, proposed by a gubernatorial commission two years ago.

In response, state Education Department staffers have drafted a review system for schools, based on standards measured in the state's annual school "report card," issued for the first time last year.

Those standards include data on attendance, dropout and promotion rates, and student performance on state-mandated reading, math, writing and citizenship tests.

Starting in 1994, there would be four classifications for schools, based on their performance in the 1993-94 school year: "Excellence," "Success," "Progress" and "Special Assistance."

Every three years after that, a school would be classified once again, based on the previous school year's performance.

And starting in 1997, the state would begin rewarding -- and punishing -- schools for their performance.

Schools that rate "Excellence" would be celebrated as "World Class Schools," and be eligible for cash awards in the $1,000-to- $3,000 range, according to Richard M. Petre, assistant deputy state superintendent.

Schools ranked in the "Success" category would receive plaques, as would those schools that improved.

But schools that repeatedly fail to improve despite "intensive support" from the state could be subject to a number of state actions, according to the draft.

The options include waiving state and local policies and bylaws that may be holding up progress, and making major changes to staffing.

More radical alternatives could include "closing the school . . . and reopening under new operating conditions," contracting-out the school's management to a university or private business, or even a state takeover.

The draft proposal drew some reservations from board members yesterday.

"Probably, the more affluent schools in the affluent jurisdictions are going to get these awards," said Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the state board.

The draft proposal is expected to be revised and formally proposed to the state board later this year for action next February. If approved, it could be part of a formal state bylaw by next July.

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