Schools rank in top third in Maryland Standards met or exceeded in 12 of 13 areas

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Anne Arundel County public schools rank in the top third among Maryland's 24 subdivisions, according to the Maryland School Performance Report issued yesterday.

The county's schools met or exceeded minimum statewide standards in 12 of 13 areas measured in the annual assessment, including attendance and grades on state functional skills tests, the report showed.

Howard County was the only school system in Maryland to meet or exceed all 13 minimum standards; six other counties, not including Anne Arundel, also passed 12 out of 13 areas.

"I'd say that means we're a good school system," said Thomas Twombly, president of the Anne Arundel Board of Education, which has been criticized for improperly handling suspected child abuse cases.

The one area in which the county failed to meet the minimum statewide standard was the dropout rate. The rate in Anne Arundel County public schools was 3.76 percent, compared to the minimum state standard of 3 percent. The statewide standard for excellence is 1.25 percent.

Annual attendance rates dipped slightly, but remained above the minimum standard of 94 percent. Anne Arundel's attendance rate among elementary grades was 95.5 percent, compared to 95.8 percent last year, while the attendance rate for middle and high school students fell to 94.2 percent from 94.8 percent last year.

Results of the Maryland School Performance Assessment program tests, released last May, were listed in the state's report card, but did not count toward the school systems' final rating.

In Anne Arundel County, as in many of the state's other subdivisions, only a small percentage of students were able to meet the proposed statewide standards. The percentage of Anne Arundel students who could meet the proposed standard ranged from 23.7 percent to 53.1 percent, depending on the grade level and test taken.

The tests are designed to assess students' abilities to compare and contrast ideas, characters and events; create solutions to real-life problems; develop plans to solve problems and show other skills. They soon may be assessed by lowered standards, said Webster Dorsey, who helped tabulate numbers for the report card.

"Our students did not score well on this at all, but neither did students in other jurisdictions," said Mr. Dorsey, who works for the Anne Arundel school system. "My own daughter took the test in the third grade in 1992, and she came home saying she didn't think she'd done well. We're now testing students on things they've never been prepared for, and it could be the standards are too high."

But the report card showed that Anne Arundel students improved significantly on the four basic functional skills tests that must be passed if a student wants to graduate.

This year, 96.1 percent of ninth-graders taking the test passed, compared to 89.9 percent last year. Among ninth-graders taking the citizenship exam, 86.7 percent passed, compared to 77.6 percent last year.

Among 11th-graders, 97.3 percent passed the citizenship test, compared to 96.8 percent last year.

"What we need to do now is become an excellent school system," said Mr. Twombly. "By the end of 1997, we have to meet all 13 standards. Howard who? Montgomery who? Calvert who? We have to be the best in the state. If Howard County is the best in certain areas, we need to go there and find out why. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

L Here is a look at how schools elsewhere in the region fared.

Baltimore

Baltimore City's school system placed at the bottom of the state, meeting standards in only two of the 13 areas.

The city achieved an excellent rating for 11th-graders on the reading portion of functional tests, with 99.1 percent passing. The 178-school system also met the standard for elementary school promotion, with a 97 percent promotion rate.

Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said that while the city still falls far short of goals, it has shown progress in elementary and middle school attendance, middle school scores on functional tests and attendance at most high schools.

He lamented an increase in the high school dropout rate, from 16.4 percent to 18.5 percent, and said, "We have to give them more relevance and hope in school. While we are improving, we have an awful lot of work to do; we know that," he said.

Baltimore County

Baltimore County schools met 10 of the 13 state standards, one fewer than last year. The schools maintained four excellent ratings and six satisfactory ratings, as they did last year.

The county's drop-out rate for high school students slipped from a satisfactory 3 percent to an unsatisfactory 3.32 percent. As they did last year, the schools also failed to make the grade in secondary school attendance (92.9 percent) and in how many ninth-graders passed the functional citizenship test (84.9 percent). On the latter standard, county students missed the satisfactory mark by one-tenth of 1 percent.

On the comprehensive test of basic skills given students in grades 3, 5 and 8, reading comprehension scores were up at all levels, but math and language scores dropped. Superintendent Stuart Berger called the report card a "wake-up call for the school system" and said he intends to meet every state standard in the future.

Carroll

Carroll County Schools met standards in 12 of 13 categories, one fewer than last year. Superintendent R. Edward Shilling was neither surprised nor bothered.

The only category in which Carroll schools didn't meet the standard was attendance at the secondary level, a result of making up snow days in June instead of asking the state for a waiver. Several students did not attend that last week because of commitments to vacations and camps.

"I have no regrets about making that decision," Mr. Shilling said.

Of the 12 standards Carroll schools met, nine were at the "excellent," level, which is as high as any district scored, Mr. Shilling said.

He said the schools continue to be among the top-performing in the state while spending below the state average per pupil. Carroll County spends $5,089 per student. Howard spends $6,695. Baltimore spends $5,182. The state average is $5,823.

Harford

An upbeat Harford County schools superintendent was enthusiastic about the county meeting 11 of the 13 state standards in the 1993 school report card, one more than last year.

Harford schools achieved an excellent rating in seven of the categories and satisfactory in four other areas. Last year, the school system met 10 of the 13 objectives, with two excellent and eight satisfactory ratings.

Harford seventh through 12th graders did not meet the attendance and dropout standards. The attendance rate was 93.1 percent, below the 94 percent required for a satisfactory rating. The dropout rate was 3.26 percent, just over the 3 percent standard.

"We are absolutely proud, extremely happy to report student progress," Superintendent Ray R. Keech said.

Howard County posted the best performance in Maryland on the state's annual school report card for the fourth year in a row, meeting all 13 state standards.

The county school system earned eight excellent and five satisfactory marks on the Maryland School Performance Program Report. And Howard posted the lowest high school dropout rate in the state, 1.65 percent, compared with the state average of 5.3 percent.

"I'm glad we were able to maintain our position," said Superintendent Michael E. Hickey."I hope that underscores for the citizens in the county that their education dollars are being well spent."

The county's black students still lagged behind their white and Asian counterparts in functional test scores, although they've narrowed the gap this year.

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