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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Board of Education reviews comprehensive master plan

By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer

(Sept. 24, 2020) Worcester County school officials presented an overview of the “Local Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated Strategic Plan,” or the new “Master Plan,” to the county Board of Education at its meeting on Sept. 15.

According to school officials, the Every Student Succeeds Act is the country’s primary education law for public schools.

The purpose of the act is to increase student achievement and to eliminate achievement gaps among students for all 24 school districts in Maryland.

The law aims to ensure equity for students who get special education or other special services.

“To give you a little background, in 2002, the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act was passed by the Maryland General Assembly,” said Amy Gallagher, the coordinator of accountability, assessment and school counselors for the county school system.

The “Bridge to Excellence” legislation increased state aid to public education and required each local school system to establish a comprehensive master plan to be updated yearly.

When the Every Student Succeeds Act was reauthorized in 2015, the 24 school districts were provided more flexibility to be innovative while remaining accountable for student success, Gallagher said.

“Last year in 2019 … the requirements of the structure of this plan that is submitted by Worcester County annually was consolidated significantly,” Gallagher said.

Worcester County Public Schools submits a Local Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated Strategic Plan for review annually by Oct. 15.

This year, school districts are expected to present information about two components of the law— the gifted and talented plan and new teacher induction and mentoring.

“However, all grants (Titles I, II, III, IV and the Fine Arts grant) are still required to have these reports done, so that’s in addition to the components of the [Local Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated Strategic Plan],” said Coordinator of Instruction Tamara Mills.

Mills said the school system is updating its identification process for gifted students.

“Right now, in our county, only sixth to 12th graders are identified,” Mills said. “We should be identifying in third grade.”

She added that fourth and fifth graders will be identified in November and December through the Cognitive Abilities Test, which is widely used across the state, and other factors.

“In the state … we are required to identify essentially 10 percent, or a minimum of 10 percent, of each grade level, which is interesting,” Mills said. “Nationally, the research shows really only three to five percent is truly gifted. However, we have a lot of high-achieving students.”

Mills said only two schools in the county system are struggling to meet that 10 percent.

“We’re also going to do a book study with the elementary and middle school teachers, a group of them from each school,” she said.

Carrie Sterrs, the coordinator of public relations and special programs for the school system, said those select educators will be working with “Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom” by Susan Winebrenner.

A $50,000 award from the state will cover the cost of the book and related professional learning as well as three years of the Cognitive Abilities Test.

In addition, the comprehensive teacher induction program has been updated.

“For many, many years, our teacher induction program has been a four-day program,” Mills said. “This year, partially because we felt it was the right thing to do but also partially because it was absolutely necessary with covid and this digital teaching environment this school year, we expanded the induction program from four days to nine days.”

Teachers were engaged in what was described as intensive training and instructional technology.

Gallagher and central office coordinators provided professional learning and the human resources coordinators provided employee orientation information.

Worcester County Public Schools will also offer afterschool professional learning opportunities twice a month with a Book Talk and a Microsoft Team for new teachers.

The book they will discuss is “I Wish My Teacher Knew” by Kyle Schwartz.

The draft submission for the Local Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated Strategic Plan is due Oct. 15 and the technical review by the Maryland State Department of Education on Nov. 6. Then, the final submission is due on Nov. 16.