BALTIMORE – State school board members were left scratching their heads Tuesday after getting a first look at the numeric formulas needed to assess the progress of programs mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, which holds schools accountable for students’ success. A plan released Tuesday by the state Department of Education would require schools statewide to establish baseline figures for student performance based on enrollment numbers and 2002 test data. Success standards would be set for students in eight “subgroups,” including five ethnic categories and economically disadvantaged pupils, among others. The baseline, which will apply to all Maryland public schools, will likely leave the state’s poorer districts struggling to catch up to those with higher performance scores and better test participation rates. “All schools, all subgroups, have the same objective,” said Mark Moody, a former assistant state superintendent who presented the plans to the board.
“You set the baseline once for everybody . . . Each of the eight subgroups have to perform at the minimum (level). One (under-performing) subgroup gets you in trouble.” Board members, while confused by the proposed formulas, said they held the same concerns as many school officials and teachers since No Child Left Behind Act was adopted in 2001: Some Maryland school systems could be ahead of the game in student performance, while others could be left two steps behind.
Earlier in the meeting, Prince George’s School Superintendent Iris Metts told the board she was alarmed about low test scores among African-American high school students.
“We’re not going to make gains with minority students unless we have extended academic opportunities,” she said. “We’re very committed to working as hard as we can.” State officials recognize certain school systems will be constantly working to improve their student achievement scores, Moody said. That’s what the No Child Left Behind Act requires of them. “The Legislature has said, `I understand you have a big step to take,'” Moody said, referring to under-performing school systems. “But you have to take that step.” Maryland’s plan, while still preliminary, will be presented to U.S. Department of Education officials later this week, said Ronald A. Peiffer, deputy state superintendent for academic policy. After Peiffer and Moody review formulas with federal officials, a final plan will be brought before the state board in February. – 30 – CNS-1-28-03