Centennial's crowning achievement Howard County: Ellicott City high school offers model for others, a new challenge for itself.


THINGS HAVE BEEN GOING right at Centennial High School. It's not just the school community's affluence or stability, although those are key reasons for its academic success. Centennial High seems driven to excellence, determined not to let its obvious advantages cause it to relax its high standards.

For years, Centennial has carried the reputation as Howard County's top high school. Parents fight heated redistricting wars for the right to send their children to the Ellicott City school. Students and parents elsewhere look upon Centennial with a mixture of envy and admiration.

Now Centennial is reaping the fruits of its labor to hold onto its designation -- whether real or perceived -- as the county's top school. And now it can claim to be the best high school in Maryland as well.

Centennial threw a well-deserved party for itself after earning straight A's on the state report card. This was the first time in the six years the statewide assessment has been issued that any high school has achieved an "excellent" grade in each category: attendance and graduation rates and functional tests in reading, math, writing and citizenship.

Lest you think this is a scene out of "Revenge of the Nerds," forget it. The Eagles athletic program is also doing quite well. Its boys basketball team is undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the Baltimore metropolitan area going into last night's game versus Howard High; the girls hoops squad is 11-5 and ranked No. 11 in the area. The boys indoor track squad also is strong with a No. 9 area ranking and the wrestling team is competitive, just a shade under the .500 mark going into its match against Glenelg. This would indicate that academics and athletics do not have to be mutually exclusive endeavors.

Centennial's success in the classroom and on the athletic field should be a beacon of hope for those losing faith in public education. It would be easy to dismiss the school's achievement as spoils to those with riches.

Indeed, a strong and active PTA ensures that all student needs are met. But Centennial's lofty performance standards can be duplicated in other schools. The No. 1 ranking gives rivals something to shoot for, and Centennial a tangible title to defend.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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