TAKOMA PARK – A group of Maryland educators Friday unveiled a new study suggesting that, with the right combination of programs, school children can succeed despite poverty.
The group reviewed 182 elementary schools where 45 percent or more of pupils were poor, and found that nearly all scored below the statewide average on standardized state tests administered in the 3rd grade.
However, 15 of the schools scored above the statewide average.
“I think it’s very important to look at all 15 of these schools that are doing well,” said Tru Ginsburg, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Education Coalition, which participated in the study.
The study was conducted by Maryland Kids Count, a children’s welfare effort financed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore.
The 15 schools were:
* Cherokee Lane and Oakland in Prince George’s County.
* Walter S. Mills-Parole in Anne Arundel County.
* Accident, Route 40 and Kitzmiller in Garrett County.
* Harmony Hills, Rolling Terrace and Rosemont in Montgomery County.
* Roye-Williams in Harford County.
* Emma Doub in Washington County.
* Westernport in Allegany County.
* Dickey Hill, Gardenville and Patapsco in Baltimore.
For the report’s purposes, a school was considered to be in poverty when at least 45 percent of its pupils received free and reduced-price lunches.
Its findings suggest that the answer to the problem lies in what school administrators are willing to do, and what funding is available. There can be wide range within a single school system.
For example, among the 182 schools studied, “Prince George’s County…had both the best performing school in third grade reading…and the worst.”
One school system did “consistently well in serving its lower income students,” the report said. “All six Garrett County elementary schools with more than 45 percent of their students in poverty scored at average or well above comparable schools.”
The report concluded that some Garrett policies have been helpful in overcoming poverty problems. These included a “Home Connections” program encouraging teachers to visit parents in their homes, requirements that pupils share weekly writing journals and math logs with their parents, and learning tips in newsletters sent to homes.
Kids Count and Maryland Education Coalition officials Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park to launch a campaign to keep federal and state education programs off the budget chopping block.
The southern Montgomery County school pulls from an area laced with apartments and transient residents. Almost 70 percent of its 772 students live below the poverty line, and for 25 percent of the children, English is not the native language.
The school has two social workers. Five teachers specifically help students make the transition to speaking English. More than 60 percent of the staff is bilingual. And the school provides many social services to families, including alcohol counseling and family therapy.
“We encourage parents to come and get involved,” said Rolling Terrace Principal Robin Mathias.
Patty Pollard, a Baltimore County resident who volunteered in the research, said state officials needed to evaluate test scores to find similar trends, and then assist schools in dealing with unique problems. -30-