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What Spells Success for SPMS Honor Roll Students

Sharon Morell, principal of Severna Park Middle School, explains the important and successful concepts of a "redo" and of students mastering skills at the middle school level.

Patch regularly posts for Severna Park schools. The second quarter that was recently posted for (SPMS), prompted a Patch reader to ask how and why the criteria may have changed from years ago.

I emailed the principal of SPMS, Sharon Morell, seeking insight into what the formula for success is today for middle school students.

According to the AACPS website, the middle school has an enrollment of about 1,430 students. About 53 percent of the SPMS students made honor roll and about 25 percent made principals’ honor roll in the second quarter, Morell said in an email.

Having more than half the student body on an hornor roll list may seem like a high percentage, but the reason is that the methodology for measuring student achievement has changed from traditional means ued in the past. In part, students are competing more with themselves rather than being measured against a standard set of criteria.

Acknowledging that schools were different decades ago, Morell pointed out research conducted in the 1970s indicated the grade structure for the traditional junior high school was not the most sound approach for children and young adolescents who could range from ages 10 to 14.

"Hence, schools were reorganized into middle schools," she wrote. Two research-based documents "This We Believe, Turning Points 2000" and "Breaking Ranks in the Middle" include the "redo," which is a key point in the SPMS grading practice, Morell wrote.

There's more to the honor roll than just the numbers.

"A grade represents a clear and accurate indicator of what a student knows and is able to do—mastery," Morell said. "And in middle schools we practice redo, which allows students to see themselves as a work in progress, and it keeps them moving toward mastery rather than settling for anything less. Redoing and polishing work is a far more rigorous intellectual task than merely doing it once."

Morell said another consideration is that "what is normal for one child may be below or above normal for another."

She said that each student learns at a different pace, and that, for instance, it would be arbitrary to say that during the second week of November all students will have gained full proficiency with quadratic equations.

"Every one of us learns at a different pace, so we do not hold students to the same pace of learning and mastery as their classmates," she wrote.

"Students in this community are very competitive, and parents hold high standards for their children. Our emphasis this year is on ‘perseverance’ and we encourage students to keep working on a standard until they master it," wrote Morell.

"Our Tuesday after-school HELP sessions are well attended, and many students opt to eat their lunch with a teacher to benefit from re-teaching. The students work really hard!"

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