OCES First In Md. To Hit Testing Goal

OCEAN CITY – By 2014, schools across the nation will be expected to have reached the goal set by the No Child Left Behind Act by having every child attain proficiency in both reading and math. While skeptics doubt when and if that goal will be achieved, one area school has already accomplished the feat, raising the bar for the rest of the county and for the rest of the state.

Ocean City Elementary School met the federal goal of the No Child Left Behind Act last spring when all 184 students in the third and fourth grades passed the Maryland School Assessment (MSA), becoming the first school in Maryland to achieve the goal.

MSA tests have been administered each year since 2003 in an effort to hold schools accountable for students’ progress.

Striving for all schools to attain 100 percent proficiency is a goal that some members of the education community deem unrealistic, with many assuming that the lofty aim will be abandoned well before 2014. Many argue that special education students and students learning English as a second language make achieving 100 percent proficiency difficult, if not impossible.

Despite the skepticism regarding President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, Ocean City Elementary School was able to meet the 2014 goal, achieving 100 percent proficiency five years ahead of schedule.

Of the 568 students attending Ocean City Elementary, 89 percent are white, 5 percent are Hispanic, 3 percent are black, 2 percent are Asian and 1 percent of the student population is American Indian.

Ocean City Elementary was also honored last year when it was ranked first in Maryland for the percentage of students rated “advanced”, the highest of the three performance levels. 72 percent of Ocean City Elementary students were rated advanced last year.

Worcester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes attributes the school’s success to their three-pronged approach to learning.

“First, the school helps students understand their role in the educational process. The school motto for students includes ‘I can learn anything if I believe in myself and work hard.’ Second, the school insists on high expectations – academically and behaviorally – for students and staff. And finally, the school has a ‘no excuses’ philosophy. Each and every child can and will learn,” said Andes.

Ocean City Elementary Principal Irene Kordick attributes the school’s success first and foremost to the teachers.

“It’s number one, the teachers. We all support what our teachers do here,” she said.

According to Kordick, hard work, consistency, persistence and a positive attitude all work as the underlying theme at Ocean City Elementary.

“Our school has high expectations, we work hard and set high expectations for ourselves as well as for our kids,” said Kordick.

Kordick quoted Dr. Nancy Grasmick when discussing MSA testing, saying, “we should think of the MSA as the floor.”

Kordick has infused that line of thinking into Ocean City Elementary, but strives to teach more than just the basics.

“Each child deserves the basics, however we teach to the ceiling,” she said.

Kordick acknowledged the underlying doubts that many people have regarding the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act, but maintains that they never considered them unattainable.

“We don’t have those doubts. When we missed the mark in past years, we just worked harder,” she said.

Reaching 100 percent proficiency certainly raises the bar, and keeping students at complete proficiency will remain a goal among Ocean City Elementary staff. According to Kordick, she, along with the interview committee, will continue to hire only the best teachers.

“It’s because of our positive attitude that we were able to achieve this. We basically supported what the goal was and we will continue to do so,” she said.

The school has been recognized on the national level as well. Edward Cashman, regional representative for the Secretary of Education, will be coming to tour the school, said Kordick.

Each year the bar is raised higher and higher for Maryland schools in an effort to encourage annual increases in proficiency. This year, Maryland schools are tasked with showing that at least 61 percent of students are proficient in math with 70 percent to be proficient in reading, up five and seven points respectively from last year.

Of the 1,430 schools in Maryland, 77.2 percent, 1050 schools, are making yearly progress.

Locally, several Worcester County elementary schools are well on their way to the 2014 goal and have already surpassed this year’s goal. Showell Elementary School, Buckingham Elementary, Pocomoke Elementary and Snow Hill Elementary students achieved at least 74 percent proficiency in reading and math last spring.

Showell Elementary narrowly missed the mark last year, coming in at 97.8 percent proficiency in math and 98.9 percent proficiency in reading.

“All of our schools in the Worcester County Public School family infuse the message of shared responsibility for success. This team approach has contributed to our status as a top-performing school system in the state,” said Andes.