Md. Schools Get Good News and Bad

Assessments Follow Release of State Test Scores

Nearly 40 Prince George's County schools face tougher oversight and possible sanctions after falling short of state standards on test scores, officials announced. But one high-poverty school in Prince George's and six in Montgomery County improved enough to move off the state's watch list, a key performance index under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The announcement followed the release of this year's Maryland School Assessment scores, which show an across-the-board rise in test scores and a narrowing of racial and ethnic achievement gaps.

Of 1,102 elementary and middle schools statewide, the total on the watch list dipped this year to 173, from 179. State officials said this year's standards for "adequate progress" toward the federal goal of near-universal student proficiency by 2014 were significantly stiffer than those of the previous two years.

Montgomery Officials Assail Ehrlich

Democrats Oppose Immigrant Insurance Cuts

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and two County Council members criticized Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for proposing budget cuts that would cause hundreds of legal immigrants to lose their taxpayer-subsidized health insurance next month.

Ehrlich proposed eliminating $7 million for coverage of pregnant women and children classified as permanent legal residents for fewer than five years. In a letter to Ehrlich, Duncan and council members Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) and George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) said it was "unconscionable that you would even consider ending support for pregnant women and children."

Ehrlich's proposal sought to bring Maryland in line with federal rules.

Pr. George's Officer Dies in Shootout

Corporal, 41, Was Chasing Suspect Near Laurel

A Prince George's County police officer in a unit that chases down violent criminals was killed in a shootout when he pursued a suspect into a Laurel area apartment complex after a routine traffic stop.

Cpl. Steven Gaughan, 41, was the first county officer killed by bullets in the line of duty in at least 10 years, police said.

Police charged Robert M. Billett of Bladensburg with first-degree murder and other crimes. Billett was being held without bond.

Ex-Security Guard Guilty in S.Md. Arson

Defendant Agrees to Cooperate in Probe of Fires

Aaron L. Speed, 21, a former security guard at the subdivision under construction in Southern Maryland that was devastated by arsonists in December, pleaded guilty to a felony and, in exchange for leniency, agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the fires.

Speed said he was driven by anger toward his employer and resentment toward the affluent, educated homeowners moving into the Hunters Brooke subdivision.

Although racial animosity was the confessed motive of another defendant who pleaded guilty in the case, it was not mentioned during Speed's proceeding. Many of the houses in the development were being bought by African Americans. Speed and the other four defendants are white.

Across the Region

Police Chief's Car Stolen; Va. Principal Cleared

* D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey's department-issued Ford Crown Victoria was stolen from a street near his home in Southwest Washington.

* A Fairfax County judge dismissed charges against a popular Reston elementary school principal who had been accused of failing to report suspected child abuse by an elderly volunteer. District Judge Ian M. O'Flaherty ended the trial of Ricki Harvey, 55, principal at Dogwood Elementary, even before defense attorneys presented her side. He said the prosecutor had not proved that Harvey knew enough about possible abuse by the volunteer, Kenneth Bayer, 88, to require her to report it to authorities.

Summer Sweets Nancy Ortega, 10, prepares to bite into her frozen confection at Woody's Ice Cream in Fairfax, a popular summer destination.