Tests Waste Time and Money
Editor: As an eighth-grade teacher in the Baltimore City public school system, I have just finished administering two practice sessions and eight actual sessions of the test mandated by the state superintendent of schools under the rubrics of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP).
The published test is seriously flawed, and one is led genuinely to question the thoroughness of any field testing done to establish the validity and reliability of test items. Absolutely contradictory directions stare up at the test administrator from facing pages. Textual reference to a chart essential to the proper administration of the text indicates an incorrect page location.
As a classroom test administrator, I was required to read to the students grammatically incorrect directions. (These are obviously not "planted errors" to challenge student awareness, but rather they are incorrect English structures used by the test writers.) Elsewhere, in a reading selection, students are offered miserably poor sentence structure, which serves only to obfuscate the meaning of the text.
In a portion of the test dealing with math skills, there are activities (basically word problems) which are so ill-conceived that their actual quantitative logic and numerical logic are faulty.
Not only ought we have grave concerns about the validity of the MSPAP testing instrument, but also we should be appalled by the circumstances under which the tests were administered this year. For 10 days this May my students began each day with test sessions lasting from an hour to an hour-and-a-half in debilitating heat and humidity. The most visible outcomes were frustration and palpable testing overkill! I submit that this testing has effectively curtailed this year's instructional time by 10 days at the same time that our retiring state superintendent has set forth a proposal to lengthen the school year by 20 days.
In Baltimore City some $200,000 was spent to provide for "manipulatives" required for students during testing. Dare we hope that these tools, including calculators, protractors, compasses and dictionaries, will now be made available for daily use in classrooms heretofore woefully lacking many of these same learning tools?
The expenditure for manipulatives probably pales in comparison fees paid to writers, consultants and publishers who contributed to the design of such a questionable testing instrument. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke might be particularly chagrined to learn that school children in "the city that reads" were subjected to a survey an addendum to the test which twice suggested to students that reading might be an activity more for girls than for boys.
Parents and teachers must band together to speak out in the face of such diversionary tactics as the MSPAP tests. We must also demand an accounting of money so freely spent. We must be willing to display the insight and courage of the child in the fairy tale and declare that the emperor's new suit of clothes does not exist.
Editor: I read with great interest Scott Shane's article on Leningrad, formerly St. Petersburg (June 9). His reference to the magical yet eerie past of this city does not surprise me.
An objective reader may want to know that this city was built on hundreds of thousands of bodies of forced laborers who fell victim to untold sufferings amid the subarctic marshes while compelled by Tsar Peter I to construct the new capital of his imperial Russia.
The majority of those who perished there were the Ukrainian army units. Tsar Peter I, after having defeated at the battle of Poltava King Charles XII of Sweden and Hetman Ivan Mazepa of Ukraine, who in striving to protect Ukraine's independence joined Sweden against Muscovy, took revenge upon the
Ukrainians. He ordered contingents upon contingents of Ukrainian Kozaks to work on the building of St. Petersburg.
Victorious Peter I killed two birds with one stone. He got his cheap labor force for his grand project and he decimated the remaining armed forces of the defeated yet unconquered Ukrainian nation.
If the city of Leningrad is haunted by its past, as Scott Shane asserts, truly the many thousands of Ukraine's best sons who perished there are among those who at midnight forever walk the streets of that grandiose, yet eerie city.
Wolodymyr C. Sushko.
Editor: With the decision to close the Department of University Collections, Johns Hopkins University has once again trumpeted its prejudice against the arts by deciding to diminish the stature (and possible public access) to one of Baltimore's treasures, "Evergreen House."
After selling the very important Garrett coin collection, selling Peabody's Audubon collection, selling the Boone collection at "Oak Hill" and taking the trouble to restore the Garrett house, "Evergreen," this announced step sends ripples of angst throughout cultural Baltimore.
In the decision to eliminate the Department of University Collections, Hopkins' new president, William Richardson, has proved all too soon (and to the dismay of all concerned Baltimoreans and Marylanders) that he is, alas, a clone of his immediate predecessor. Apparently, Mr. Richardson believes that Hopkins has no place in the Baltimore community as a repository of art and Maryland's heritage. Never mind the intent of numerous past donors and benefactors who had different ideas of what makes a great university.
Baltimore's current great private collections will now need to be bequeathed to more responsible and less short-sighted institutions that value the entire man rather than just his physical and molecular structure.
C. James Troy Jr.
Editor: I agree with your comments lauding the 20-year strategy report for downtown Baltimore. The momentum initiated the Inner Harbor and soon to be jolted by the new baseball stadium must continue, and it begins with creative planning.
I must hope, however, that the "adult entertainment" offered by The Block is not diverted into adjacent areas.
Further, I encourage the dismantling of the present urban polarization most vivid at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The "east side" areas should be incorporated into future downtown revitalization.
Michael D. Eckhardt.
Editor: I am writing in response to the June 7 sports article quoting from USA Today about Julie Croteau, the only woman ever to play regularly on an NCAA baseball team. She claimed her teammates and coach were sexist and charged St. Mary's College with widespread discrimination toward female athletes.
I played on this team with Julie for the three years she was there. As one of last year's captains, I am writing in defense of my teammates, our coach and the school.
When we first heard there was going to be a girl trying out for the team, we all had mixed emotions. But after her first fall season and spring tryout there was no doubt that she belonged on the team. She soon became fully accepted as "one of the guys," which is what she said she wanted from the beginning.
However, I think her recent allegations are brought on by frustration from playing regularly three years ago and seeing her playing time decrease considerably over the past two seasons because of incoming talent.
As far as calling us sexist, this is crazy. None of the incidents mentioned were ever directed in any threatening or derogatory way towards her. I think that these incidents merely emphasize that she was so entirely accepted by everyone on the team that no one gave a second thought when joking around about such matters. It was just a bunch of baseball players carrying on.
Julie also needs to understand that there was no way for any of us to know how to act with a girl on the team after playing years and years with just guys. This was all very new to us! Julie didn't help herself out in this situation any when she stated on "This Week In Baseball," after her freshman year, that she could play for a better program.
As far as sexual discrimination towards female athletes at St. Mary's College, Julie knew when coming to this small, Division III college that education is the top priority of the school, not athletics. The facilities, coaches and schedules, good or bad, are the same for male and female teams.
Moreover, how many other females athletes from St. Mary's have made such public complaints? I'm just sorry that Julie needs to make public controversy out of things that are obviously created in her mind. I had a lot more respect for her than that.