Not Ready for New Md. Test

Minority, Low-Income Students' Scores Lag Thousands of low-income and minority high school students in Maryland aren't ready to pass a new state exam that will be required for a diploma by 2007, the first-ever results of the Maryland High School Assessment showed.

The results, released Thursday, also showed an achievement gap: Asian and non-Hispanic white students consistently scored higher than black, Hispanic and Native American students in each of the five subjects: English, biology, geometry, government and algebra. Additionally, well-funded schools tended to outperform high-poverty schools. About 250,000 eighth- and ninth-graders took the exam last winter and spring.

Second Thoughts About Head Start

Montgomery to Launch a Program of Its Own The Montgomery County school system plans to start an early childhood education program in September that might eventually replace Head Start, the long-running federal program, in the county.

"Fast Start" is designed to reach more children by offering shorter lessons and slightly larger classes. An "academic" curriculum -- taught by a certified teacher and an aide -- will focus on preparing children to read and do math. School officials say Head Start is too expensive, doesn't provide lasting benefits and doesn't serve enough students. Head Start supporters worry the new program will be test-driven and won't continue Head Start's broader efforts to help needy families become self-sufficient.

Thumbs Up for Connector Road

New County Council Is Going Duncan's Way The newly elected Montgomery County Council wasted no time last week giving County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) what he wanted: a resolution supporting the intercounty connector.

The largely symbolic 6-to-3 vote marked the first time in more than a decade that the council endorsed the long-debated east-west road that would link Interstates 270 and 95. Duncan, who worked hard to get connector backers elected, says the project is critical to easing traffic congestion.

Raining on Dulles Corridor Rail Plan

U.S. Official Calls Metro Extension Too Costly The top U.S. transit official told Virginia officials to scale back their $4 billion plan to extend Metro to Dulles International Airport because the project would be too costly and carry too few riders.

Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer L. Dorn advised elected officials to consider building rail as far as Tysons Corner and running rapid bus service through the rest of the Dulles corridor.

Malvo Guardian's Powers Limited

Judge Denies Access to Sniper Suspect's Records The lawyer serving as guardian for teenage sniper suspect John Lee Malvo cannot see investigative, educational or mental health records about his ward, a Fairfax County judge ruled Wednesday.

Todd G. Petit, appointed guardian because Malvo's parents are not involved in the case, said the ruling will hinder his effort to inform the court about mental or physical problems and other issues.

Kelly Jury Calls for Jail Term

Father Would Get Year for Girl's Death in Van A Prince William County jury recommended that Kevin C. Kelly, 46, spend a year in jail for the death of his 21-month-old daughter, who was left in a stifling hot van for seven hours in May while he did chores. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Money, Ex-Administrator Missing

Baptist School Is Short Thousands of Dollars Charles County authorities were trying to locate Peter R. Ferguson, the fired administrator of the Potomac Heights Christian Academy in Indian Head. An audit at the small Baptist academy found that thousands of dollars were missing. Authorities did not name Ferguson as a suspect.

-- Miranda S. Spivack

Religious studies: With interest in Islam running high, fourth-graders at the Key School in Annapolis have been studying the 14th-century Muslim world.