ANNAPOLIS – Maryland public schools will be rewarded for minority and special education achievement, instead of total school improvement, under a change to Maryland State Board of Education policy.
The board allocates $2.75 million in school performance awards every year. Under the new policy, elementary and middle schools will receive 90 percent of the money for showing significant improvement in achievement of ethnic and racial groups, special education students, students with limited English proficiency and students participating in free- or reduced-price lunches.
To be eligible, targeted student groups must show a five-point improvement in the previous year’s reading or math test scores.
The remaining 10 percent of the money will be awarded as it has been done in the past – based on school test score improvement over two to three years.
Only a week ago, state Education Department officials announced it was scrapping the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test and replacing it with the Maryland School Assessment test, which will provide individual student scores instead of just school scores.
The new award guidelines, which will be used for the first time this year, will be based on MSPAP scores until the MSA comes on line. Students are tested in third, fifth and eighth grade.
Schools on average are awarded $30,000 to $70,000. The money is typically used for books and classroom supplies, and cannot be used to hire teachers or award bonuses.
When the awards program was created in 1996, more than 100 of 1,062 elementary and middle schools in the state qualified for portions of the money. That number has declined over the past few years, said Education Department spokesman Bill Reinhard. In 2001, only 61 schools showed enough improvement to receive money. Only 55 qualified in 2000.
Since there were few improvement gains, state officials wanted to re- evaluate whether the program was working. They formed a study group and recommended six changes for the awards process, including making it easier to identify schools that qualify and aligning it with the No Child Left Behind Act, federal legislation enacted earlier this year calling for high education standards.
“Overall improvement… has sort of flattened,” Reinhard said. “We want to make sure schools are rewarded for what they’ve done.”