A July 15 Metro article misstated the percentage of Maryland public school students eligible to take a modified version of state tests in reading and math next year. Two percent of all students will be able to take the tests. (Published 07/16/05).
About 145 Maryland schools have contested the results on state achievement tests in reading and math, with more than a third of the appeals coming from Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
State education officials said yesterday that many schools waited until yesterday afternoon's deadline to appeal.
Most took advantage of a one-time waiver for schools in which special education students were the only group that failed to meet performance targets on the Maryland School Assessments. More than 100 schools fell into that category out of the 267 statewide initially labeled as missing the targets, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on the state Education Department's Web site.
Prince George's had 27 of them, or about one-fifth, the largest number of any school system. Baltimore was next with 19, and Montgomery had 16.
Other schools appealed based on coding or other errors. Ron Peiffer, deputy state superintendent for academic policy, said Montgomery submitted 25 waiver requests overall and Prince George's County submitted 33. An Anne Arundel County school official said that system appealed six.
Virginia and the District do not allow such special education waivers and have not yet released the results of their standardized tests.
Peiffer said it will take at least two weeks to review the Maryland school requests. Schools at risk of being labeled "in need of improvement" because they missed state targets for two consecutive years will receive priority, he said.
"We're getting in more than we had expected," he said.
State officials already have granted eight appeals to schools that submitted their requests early, Peiffer said, cautioning that not all waivers will be approved.
Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Anne Arundel won an appeal of special education scores and a coding error. Three schools in Charles County -- Dr. Gustavus Brown Elementary, Indian Head Elementary and Milton M. Somers Middle -- and one in Allegany County also successfully appealed on the same grounds. Three other schools -- Homewood Center in Howard County, Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary in Charles County and Furman L. Templeton Elementary, an Edison Schools partnership in Baltimore -- won their appeals because of coding problems.
The special education waivers could prove to be a significant boon for schools struggling to meet the increasingly tough demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The law requires schools to meet annual performance targets set by the state for standardized reading and math tests through 2014, when all children are expected to be proficient.
Those that fail to meet the annual goals two years in a row are put on a state watch list, which currently has about 170 schools, and could be forced to offer private tutoring and allow students to transfer to better-performing schools. Eventually, they could face state takeover.
Schools are also required to break down students' performance by race, income, disability and proficiency in English. Each of these groups also must meet annual performance targets. If any group fails to do so, the entire school fails.
Recently, the U.S. Education Department has given states some flexibility in what some educators and politicians have criticized as an overly stringent law. This year, the department announced that an additional 2 percent of special education students can take a modified version of the required statewide exam. Already, 1 percent of the most severely handicapped students are allowed to take an alternative assessment.
But Maryland education officials said they won't be able to unveil their modified exams until 2006. So this year, they allowed schools to request a waiver of scores for students who potentially will take that exam.
In Howard County, three schools missed the state performance targets for special education students by just a handful of students. Portia White, the county's testing coordinator, said all submitted appeals and are awaiting the results.
"We'd like to think that all of ours can make it, but that's out of our hands now," she said. "We've done all that we can do."
Staff writers Nick Anderson and Lori Aratani and researcher Derek Willis contributed to this report.