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Perils of less progress

The Baltimore Sun


A graphic in Friday's Anne Arundel section may have left a misleading impression about when Brooklyn Park Middle School failed to meet the state's annual benchmarks for student progress.

Special education students didn't meet reading benchmarks in the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 school years. Though those students reached those goals in 2004-2005, black students fell short that year. The school made adequate progress in all areas last year, before falling behind again in two categories this year.

Brooklyn Park Middle School Principal Raymond Bibeault thought his school was on the right track.

Over the past three years, the percentage of sixth-graders who passed the state math test jumped from 34 to 66. In reading, the percentage who aced reading tests increased 4 points.

The Anne Arundel County school system has held Brooklyn Park up as a model, particularly its innovative parent-teacher conferences led by the students, who share what they're learning in school and map strategies on how to improve.

But this week, Brooklyn Park was one of 14 county schools that found themselves on the state's watch list of elementary and middle schools that failed to make "adequate yearly progress" to meet ever-rising state benchmarks under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

By a margin of fewer than three students, Brooklyn Park failed to meet targets in reading and math performance among a handful of its special education and low-income students.

The list is a complex hierarchy of levels - labeling schools with terms such "corrective action" and issuing corresponding sanctions for every year a school doesn't meet state targets. The list's ultimate threat: state takeover for schools that haven't made progress for five or more years in a row.

Two of the system's 76 elementary schools made it on the list's least severe level - "local monitoring" - for missing benchmarks for the first time. Five middle schools and an alternative school also require monitoring, the state said.

Another six schools, including Brooklyn Park, the recently closed charter school KIPP Harbor Academy and Bates Middle, remained in the more serious "school improvement process" for missing benchmarks two or more consecutive years.

"We obviously have some work to do among middle schools, but I think we've begun laying the foundation already for seeing some real increases this year," said schools spokesman Bob Mosier.

A new task force is considering lengthening the school day for middle school students and retooling schedules to boost scores, Mosier said. The system's recent reorganization that places community superintendents in neighborhoods to more closely track academic progress in feeder systems will also yield better scores, he said.

The annual list is based on how students score on the Maryland School Assessments, reading and math tests given in third through eighth grade. Last school year, 66 percent of students had to pass the test. Next year, that bar rises to 71 percent and gradually creeps up every year until 2014, when 100 percent of students are expected to be proficient under NCLB.

To avoid the list, a school has to have a certain percentage of its total population pass the test. But students that fall into as many as eight racial and demographic subgroups - including African-American, low-income, non-native English speakers - also have to meet the same passing rates.

That's where Brooklyn Park and 175 other Maryland schools tripped: They didn't adequately improve passing rates in one or more of the subgroups of children.

"It's really frustrating," Bibeault said. "If you look on the surface, it looks like we were doing well. We are such a progressive school that the district is holding up as an example. We ... thought we were going to do well, and to see this label on us now is just disappointing."


Watch list

The state put 14 Anne Arundel County schools on its watch list for not meeting performance benchmarks based on 2006-2007 testing data, attendance and participation rates.

First year on list

Two elementary schools, five middle schools and a special school that didn't make "adequate yearly progress" in these areas for the first year were identified for local monitoring, meaning they must provide students with intensive support:

North Glen Elementary: special education (reading).

Tracey's Elementary: special education (math).

Arundel Middle: special education (reading).

Meade Middle: special education (reading).

Old Mill Middle North: special education (reading, math) and low-income (reading).

Southern Middle: special education (reading).

George Fox Middle: limited English-proficient (reading).

J. Albert Adams: all students, African-American, low-income (reading, math for all) and attendance.

Again on list

These schools that didn't meet AYP for two or more consecutive years in the same area need to make two consecutive years of improvement to get off the watch list:

KIPP Harbor Academy (now closed): all students and African- American (reading for both).

Bates Middle: all students, African-American, Hispanic, low-income(reading for all) and special education and limited English-proficient (reading, math for both).

Brooklyn Park Middle: special education and low-income (reading for both).

Annapolis Middle: all students, African-American, Hispanic, low-income, special education and limited English-proficient (reading for all), special education (math).

Some improvement

Lindale Middle and Marley Middle: met AYP in 2006-2007 because of improvements in reading and math test scores but remain on the watch list until they can make a second consecutive year of improvements.

[ Source: Anne Arundel County public schools]

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