Reward for a job well done; Improvement grants: The value of state's prizes for school performance isn't merely measured in dollars.


WHEN THE State Department of Education awarded $2.75 million to 94 elementary and middle schools last week for boosting test scores and attendance two years in a row, the list of achievers was remarkable in one respect: Several schools, singled out in previous years for abysmal student performance, were able to reverse their fortunes.

Eight Baltimore schools made the list -- proof that city schools aren't hopeless. Students in Baltimore's Northwood Elementary and Morrell Park Elementary-Middle, which were threatened with state takeover in 1996, substantially improved their performance.

So did Van Bokkelen Elementary, the only Anne Arundel County school on the list eligible for reconstitution by the state.

Not all the winners are turning around poor records; rather, they are good schools getting better.

In Baltimore County, 17 schools won cash prizes, including Fullerton Elementary, which was recognized for the fourth year for continued improvement. It is the only school in the state that earned this recognition all four years. Nearly a quarter of Harford County's elementary and middle schools, which generally rank high on Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests, won prizes for the strides they made. Eight schools in Howard County also received awards, including both Clarksville elementary and middle.

The awards consider results from the state's MSPAP and functional tests, and attendance. The state also weighted the formula to recognize improved minority student performance.

The real value of this program is not the cash awards. It's in administrators and teachers changing instructional programs to improve student performance.

As this ethic of continuous improvement permeates schools across Maryland, the state's academic performance can't help but improve.

Pub Date: 9/29/99

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