State wants more authority in schools


The Maryland Department of Education wants the authority to intervene and even impose new management in public schools that don't meet -- or try to meet the standards the state has set for them.

"I think that is very significant in terms of saying we're not willing to write off the lives of children year after year in schools that aren't performing," state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said in Annapolis yesterday.

She spoke at the first meeting of a new commission that will study the financing of public education -- but that panel seemed more concerned with the issue of accountability.

The department has proposed establishing this new authority by regulation to put more teeth in the 3-year-old Maryland School rTC Performance Assessment Program, which is trying to make schools accountable for the education they provide.

Included in the program are 13 standards that each of Maryland's 1,244 schools must meet -- including success on functional reading, writing and math tests; attendance, promotion and dropout rates.

If the proposed regulation survives review by the state Board of Education and a legislative oversight committee, it could go into effect as early as next year, Dr. Grasmick said.

Eventually, the regulation would also apply to the state'proficiency tests, which are designed to see how well students can apply what they've learned to the real world.

Those scores, released Monday, show students generallperforming at low levels, although school officials said the tests were designed to set standards for future performance.

For now, the proposed regulation would apply only to the 13 basic standards. It could be implemented in schools:

* That do not show satisfactory performance, or actually show regression, in the standards when they are reported in November.

* That do not meet satisfactory performance standards or at least show "substantial and sustained" progress in meeting the state standards when they are reported in November 1994.

The proposal spells out the steps the state Department of Education would take with troubled schools, including getting advice from the local superintendent and school board president. Local school systems would have to pay for the services of any third party called in to improve schools.

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