6 schools get $164,196 in state grants 422 statewide rewarded for MSPAP gains; Ceremony was a surprise; 4 other schools in county among 320 getting certificates


Six of 10 Carroll County schools recognized yesterday for improved scores on the state's annual student performance tests received $164,196 in extra funding for their achievements.

The Carroll schools were among 422 elementary and middle schools throughout Maryland that were honored by state officials for significant improvements on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, known as MSPAP.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and state education officials awarded $2.75 million to 102 schools that showed substantial improvement in their MSPAP scores over two consecutive years. The schools received awards ranging from $14,500 to $51,000. The size of each award was based on school enrollment.

As part of the new School Recognition Program, certificates of recognition were given to 320 schools that demonstrated significant improvement in scores over a one-year period.

Yesterday's announcement, at an awards ceremony at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt, was a surprise to award recipients, who were under the impression that they were attending a conference on school reform issues.

"Needless to say, I'm totally surprised and shocked; I don't know anything about it," Taneytown Elementary Principal Larry McKinney said when he was informed that his school had received a $21,600 grant.

Because of a scheduling conflict, McKinney sent one of his teachers to the "conference."

"The teacher will probably kill me; she'll never volunteer for anything again," McKinney said.

The other local schools that received grants were: Charles Carroll Elementary, $20,156; Sandymount Elementary, $24,841; Freedom Elementary, $30,794; Mount Airy Elementary, $27,936; and North Carroll Middle, $38,869.

Sykesville Middle, Westminster West Middle, Carrolltowne Elementary and Westminster Elementary received school performance recognition certificates.

Superintendent Brian Lockard, who knew of yesterday's ceremony in advance, accompanied the representatives of the award-winning schools to an event he described as a "school improvement symposium." He said principals and staffs of the schools will decide how to spend their grants.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's their money," Lockard said. "They can use these dollars to try some things that will support what they have been doing and improve even more."

The MSPAP tests, given the past five years to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders, are intended to assess students' thinking skills by asking them to solve real-life problems. The tests cover reading, writing, language use, math, science and social studies.

Last year, Carroll County students' scores were the third-highest overall in the state but declined in five subjects.

Local educators said they were caught off-guard when the purpose of yesterday's event was re- vealed by the hosts, state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and State Board of Education President Christopher T. Cross.

"I was completely duped," said Richard DeLong, principal of North Carroll Middle School, who was eagerly anticipating the events on the fake meeting agenda, including discussion of new high school assessment tests and revised professional standards.

"I thought they were going to start the meeting, and then they started giving us things," he said.

Over the past few years, DeLong said, his staff has been working to raise North Carroll's MSPAP scores by adopting new instructional strategies and participating in in-service training sessions.

"About four years ago, we knew our scores were way down," DeLong said. "We had a great staff, smart kids and very supportive parents.

"The interest is here. It's a matter of putting all these good things together."

Sandymount Elementary Principal Linda Mills attributed improved MSPAP scores at her school to several initiatives, such as having a reading specialist work with students to prepare for the test and a mentoring program involving parents.

"I think it's been a total effort -- having faculty working together and having parent volunteers," Mills said.

Principals at the recognized schools said they plan to use the money to continue to improve test scores and will meet with their staffs and school improvement teams to determine goals.

State education officials said the grant money may be used to buy instructional materials or computers, or to develop staff training programs.

"I think it gives the staff a real boost by recognizing their efforts over the past couple of years," said Richard H. Huss, principal of Charles Carroll Elementary.

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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