Principal Given Full Plate: Get 200 More Students, New Learning Standards

Article excerpt

Charles Carroll Middle School Principal Gordon Libby will have his hands full when school starts next month, with an extra 200 children rerouted from other schools to his classrooms and new learning standards to meet.

In about two weeks, Mr. Libby will receive from the Maryland State Department of Education a thick packet of new Content Standards that spell out what his students should know in math, English, history and science.

The Maryland State School Board unanimously approved the standards on Tuesday.

The middle school, located in New Carrollton, has always had trouble with state tests and is on the reconstitution eligibility list for possible takeover if things don't improve, Mr. Libby said.

Perhaps with a more specific learning road map, the scores will rise, he said.

"At least if there are concrete goals that can be measured and you know what the target is, you can hit it," said Mr. Libby, who became principal of the school in September. "I have a problem with not knowing what the target is and trying to guess what the state wants."

State educators have tried to end the guesswork by creating standards that lay out specific objectives for all students.

The standards will be rolled into the state tests - the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) - sometime after 2002.

All 24 school systems will begin incorporating the new guidelines as soon as the information arrives in mid-August.

The Content Standards do not dictate how to teach children - that remains up to local school systems - but do set specific goals that have appeared vague to Mr. Libby and other educators.

By the end of next year, for instance, Mr. Libby's third-grade students should be able to read aloud story passages with fluency and accuracy and with the appropriate intonation and expression.

His fifth-grade students should be able to emphasize key ideas and areas of importance expressed by an author by the time school lets out in June 2000, according to the Content Standards.

Standards also are set for eighth- and 12th-grade students.

There are no immediate penalties for schools that do not meet the standards, but eventually their ability to incorporate the new guidelines will surface when they are incorporated into the MSPAPs.

The MSPAPs are the primary indicator for state school officials to determine how individual schools are performing. If a school performs very poorly over a period of years and shows no sign of improvement, state school officials may determine it is "eligible for reconstitution," meaning it must be restructured by local school officials under the watchful eye of state monitors.

Twelve Prince George's County schools, including Charles Carroll, have been placed on the state watch list because of poor MSPAP scores and attendance problems.

The state school board can take over operations at the schools or shut them down if the county doesn't bring test scores and, in some cases, attendance figures up to state standards.

Of the 97 schools now on the probation list, 83 are in Baltimore.

For some school systems, realigning the curriculum to include the new standards will be a massive undertaking that may require extensive teacher training and the need to buy more books and other supplies. For other school systems, there will be hardly any noticeable change.

Richard Wilson, coordinator of secondary social studies for the Montgomery County Public School system, said some of the history standards will require drastic curriculum changes and a lot of teacher training. …