District Heights school may close after next school year -- Gazette.Net


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Thomas Claggett Elementary School in District Heights may close in the 2015-16 school year, Prince George’s County school officials said, due to low enrollment and poor test scores.

“There are several choices available to you when schools get to the point of not meeting accountability standards, which include closing them, replacing the part of the staff,” schools CEO Kevin Maxwell said. “So we sat down and talked about those schools and what we thought the best option was. For Claggett, considering its performance history, we felt it would be better off just closing it down, and moving those kids to some other schools.”

The proposal to shutter the school will be presented during the 2014-15 school year, Maxwell said.

Maxwell said the school system has applied to the Maryland State Department of Education’s School Improvement Grant program to close Claggett. The program, funded through the federal No Child Left Behind program, provides up to $50,000 in funding to improve educational opportunities for students at low-performing schools, under one of four “turnaround” models: close the school, turn it over to a charter organization, replace most of the staff, or replace the principal and institute a rigorous teacher evaluation and reward system.

Grant funds would be used to defray costs of closing the school and transferring students to higher-performing schools.

Claggett is one of the county’s worst-performing schools based on its state standardized scores. On the most recent assessments, 44 percent of Claggett’s students scored below proficient in reading and 63.3 scored below proficient in mathematics, significantly lower than countywide and statewide scores.

The school is also under enrolled; at 223 students, it is at less than half its state-rated capacity of 464.

Students who would be attending Claggett will instead be re-zoned for neighboring schools that have room to accommodate Claggett’s students, school board chairman Segun Eubanks said.

“The school was at half capacity and was not performing as well as we hoped, and with this proposal, we hope we can give the students of Thomas Claggett better educational opportunities,” Eubanks said.

The last time the county school system shuttered schools was in 2009, under then-Superintendent William Hite. Facing steep budget cuts, seven under-enrolled elementary schools and one middle school were closed.

Earnest Moore, president of the Prince George’s County PTA Council, said it is unfortunate Claggett will be closed, but that the school system has always been open and transparent in sharing information about its options for the school.

“It is always disappointing when a community school needs to close, but if we all work together, we can make whatever necessary changes need to be made,” Moore said.

Maxwell said that William Wirt Middle School in Riverdale is slated for a “transformation,” one of the four turnaround models under the SIG program. On its most recent assessments, 30.4 percent of Wirt’s students scored below proficient in reading, and 56.7 percent scored below proficient in math.

The transformation model involves replacing the principal; providing professional development, sustained support, a rigorous evaluation system and career and financial incentives for teachers; and instituting instructional reforms, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Maxwell said he expects the grant application to be approved.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net