State OKs overhaul plans for nine failing schools

The Baltimore Sun

Maryland school officials gave their approval yesterday to plans to overhaul nine failing schools in the state.

Teachers will have to reapply for their jobs at three Baltimore County and five Prince George's County schools.

The three Baltimore County schools are Woodlawn High, Lansdowne Middle and Southwest Academy.

In Harford County, the principal of failing Edgewood Middle School is retiring and will be replaced with someone who has gone through a national principal training program, called New Leaders for New Schools.

Thirty-nine schools in the state have failed to meet the federal standards under No Child Left Behind for at least five years.

When test scores are consistently low, schools are required to make significant changes to turn the school around.

A local school system can choose from such options as finding a nonprofit organization or company to run the school or turning the school into a charter, as well as replacing staff.

A study by the Center on Education Policy last year showed that Maryland's attempts to turn around its worst schools have mostly failed. About 16 percent of schools have improved, according to the Washington-based nonprofit.The group found that using a "turnaround specialist" was the least successful method. Having staff members reapply for their jobs is the most commonly tried method this year, but that also has shown limited results, the study says. Replacing large numbers of staff can cause disruption that is difficult to overcome in the first year, it said.

Baltimore and Harford counties spent significant amount of time communicating with parents and the community about what would work in their schools, said William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education.

Some schools that have not been considered failing as long have improved. Last year, 19 schools that had been on the list for two years were able to get off, and in 2006, 31 were removed.

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