Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Middle schools pin hopes for progress on top-notch teachers

Kettering, Ernest Everett Just link qualifications to state test improvement

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In order to come off a state watch list and meet testing requirements, Kettering and Ernest Everett Just middle schools are implementing plans that feature only highly qualified teachers.

Maryland requires schools in the restructuring planning stage — which the Upper Marlboro and Mitchellville schools fall into — to complete an alternative governance proposal, ensuring that the schools have a plan to address their needs in making adequate yearly progress on Maryland standards, according to the Prince George's County Public Schools Alternative Governance fact sheet.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to identify schools that have not achieved AYP for two consecutive years and place them in school improvement status. To come out of the school improvement program, schools must make AYP for two consecutive years, said Carlton Carter, Ernest Everett Just's principal.

At Ernest Everett Just, the overall student body made AYP for reading and math in 2008. Broken down demographically, students who receive free/reduced meals and special education did not make AYP for reading and math in 2008, according to the Maryland State Department of Education's 2008 Maryland Report Card.

At Kettering, the overall student body did not make AYP for reading and math in 2008. Broken down demographically, groups who did not make AYP in 2008 for reading and math were Hispanics and students who receive free/reduced meals, special education or have limited English proficiency, according to the report card. Black students made AYP in reading but not in math.

At Kettering Middle School, 42 teachers are returning, and because of the AG program, nine teachers were replaced, said Maurice Wright, principal at Kettering. Two AG teachers are replacing themselves once they pass Praxis two — a licensure and certification test — and seven teachers are new to the school.

To be highly qualified, a teacher must attain his or her standard professional certificate or advanced professional certificate, Carter said. For a standard professional certificate, teachers must have a bachelor's degree, pass Praxis one and two, and complete all academic subjects. For an advanced professional certificate, teachers must have a master's degree and a minimum of two classes — or six credit hours — over five years.

"I started [hiring] as soon as I knew what my AG vacancies were," Wright said. "I don't want people dumped in the building and I don't want them to be bitter and resentful. They have to enjoy being here."

Wright believes great teachers better themselves in their craft, enabling them to build rapport with their students.

"We're going to improve student achievement," Wright said. "AG should help us meet AYP. If we can produce kids that can achieve we're onto something."

Other changes include a new assistant principal. Wright plans to have instructional team meetings with department chairs, the assistant principal and himself to "solidify the plan of action. We work like a unit that's going to make AYP. We're going to turn a lot of heads next year and show a lot of growth."

Of the 57 teachers at Ernest Everett Just Middle School, only one is not highly qualified for the upcoming school year, Carter said. In the 2007-2008 school year, there were 17 teachers who were not highly qualified.

Rosa Mooten, Ernest Everett Just PTA president, believes the desire of the highly qualified teachers will enable the school to make AYP next year.

"It's not just making AYP that's important, but helping [students] to succeed and giving them the knowledge they need so they can go to the next level," she said. "The children have to be the desire of the teachers to help them excel and succeed and that's what we need to help us make AYP."

The school is barely making AYP in all areas except special education, which Carter intends to change.

"If you miss it in one area you don't make AYP," Carter said. "We were two students away from missing everything. You don't want to barely make it, you want to be flying. That's why I made all the changes. I anticipate making it next year."

Carter's biggest change, in an effort to get off the school improvement list, is that the school will now operate on an A/B schedule. It is the only middle school in the county to do so.

On A days, students will go to classes one, three, five and seven; on B days, students will go to classes two, four and six, with a rotating fourth class, Carter said. Once a month, the fourth B class will send students back to class one, three, five or seven, so teachers can reteach material students are having difficulty learning.

Students will be in classes with 25 students or less, compared to classrooms with 35 students, and the school will offer more elective classes, said Gloria Bumpass, Ernest Everett Just scheduler.

Longer classes and enrichment time will help the school meet AYP, Carter said. His school is helping to prepare its students for high school, as county high schools operate on an A/B schedule.

E-mail Liz Skalski at eskalski@gazette.net.