List comparing SAT results misleading
Despite the fact that the Council on Entrance Services of the College Board has repeatedly said that "using the SAT or other College Board tests as measures of the overall institutions, districts, states and other groups" should be avoided, letter writers like William L. Lickle Jr. continue to try to compare SAT outcomes of states like Maryland and Utah.
The Wall Street Journal chart which Mr. Lickle used in writing his letter of July 2 lists Utah as fourth and Maryland as 32nd in SAT rank. Unfortunately, that chart fails to include a key statistic the percent of a state's students who take the SAT.
States like Iowa (number 1 in SATs), South Dakota (number 5) and Utah have only 5 or 6 percent of their students take the SAT each year because most colleges in the interior of the country use the ACT as their entrance test.
The big name universities on the east and west coasts mostly require the SAT, and so only the best of the Utah students take the SAT. By contrast, last year nearly 60 percent of Maryland high school graduates took the SAT. Thus, Mr. Lickle is comparing the top 5 percent of Utah's students with Maryland's top 60 percent.
A much fairer comparison is given by the PSAT. When a junior in high school in the United States takes the PSAT, he or she is automatically a candidate in the National Merit Program.
Students become National Merit semi-finalists through their selection index, which equals two times their verbal score plus their math score. To be certain that every state has some National Merit semi-finalists, the College Board selects the top one-half of one percent of the students in each state.
To qualify in the 1993 National Merit program, a student from Utah needed a score of 191, one of the lowest in the country. To qualify in Maryland, a student needed a score of 204. No state required higher.
I certainly hope that these statistics will cause Mr. Lickle to feel better about Maryland's "so-called educators."
On Memorial Day weekend, students from a Johns Hopkins University fraternity in my neighborhood moved out of their house.
At that point, the items which they did not feel were salvageable were dumped in my back yard, where they had been leaving their trash to be picked up throughout the year.
I placed a call to the city's bulk-trash pickup office, as did several of my neighbors, to have this refuse hauled away. A single mattress disappeared from the pile during the following week but the rest of the trash remained.
I continued to call the Bureau of Solid Waste regarding this problem but no action was taken. On June 18, my neighbor received a registered letter from the Housing Office informing her that she was in violation of the city ordinance governing the disposal of trash within the city limits (a bed, mattress and box spring were leaning on her fence).
When she telephoned the housing inspector, she was informed that it was her responsibility to have the trash removed.
They could not help her in any way. The violation would stand, regardless of the fact that numerous calls had been made to the bulk-trash office.
I do realize that trash removal is a major problem in a city the size of Baltimore.
Our neighborhood is doing everything possible to take care of the appearance of the area, but we do not seem to get aid from the city officials responsible for the various aspects of our tough job.
The Bureau of Solid Waste has been delinquent in dealing with this matter, and the Housing Office is not willing to work with residents to help solve this problem; officials feel that their job is done when and individual is cited.
The citizens and government officials of Baltimore need to communicate and begin to work together to solve problems such as these if this city is to become a viable place to live and work in.
Elaine F. Davis
Footnote to the short article on Pat Nixon's burial:
If anyone wonders whether Richard Nixon is a loving, feeling, caring man, he or she need only look at the picture [of Mr. Nixon weeping at her funeral].
I was moved to tears.
Florence M. Layton
Stuart Berger has done a lot for Baltimore County schools
Much has been written recently about Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Stuart Berger, most of it negative. As a teacher in the system, I would like to point out several actions by Dr. Berger which have been positive.
Foremost has been the shift from a centralized bureaucracy, which had become nearly paralyzed with inefficiency, waste and bureaucratic bungling, to site-based management where individual schools could be free to innovate and manage their own affairs.
Although Dr. Berger has been on the scene less than a year, schools are now managing their own funds, shepherding valuable resources which had previously been squandered or mismanaged by the drones of the bureaucracy.
Schools have been encouraged to be innovative in course offerings, scheduling, teaching strategies and other areas which might enhance student achievement.
In the area of personnel management, transfers (which used to take until mid-July to make) have been completed. Dr. Berger implemented a retirement incentive plan to encourage older teachers to step aside to allow younger (and less costly) teachers to take their place.
It is true that Dr. Berger favors transfer policies that are not based on seniority and which strike fear into the hearts of many teachers.
However, his charge is to do what is best for students. When, in his words, he "walked into Old Court Middle School and did not see a teacher over 21," he had to be concerned.
Moreover, while his policy of identifying and transferring mediocre teachers in middle schools and placing them in high schools where they will do less harm might not sit well with teachers, it sure makes the parents of kids who were stuck with those marginal educators feel a lot better.
Dr. Berger has moved to improve the use of technology in our schools. Hundreds of new computers are coming on line for use by teachers and students. Ditto machines, which had disappeared years ago in other first-rate systems but were still the primary source of duplicating in Baltimore County, were immediately replaced by high speed photocopiers.
Where his predecessor failed to acknowledge that the county had seriously disruptive students, Dr. Berger has implemented alternative schools to get disruptive students out of the regular classes, where they inhibit learning by others, and into a situation where trained volunteers can work with them to help them succeed.
Prior to Dr. Berger's tenure, hundreds of teachers had split assignments and traveled at taxpayer expense part of the day from school to school. These teachers never felt a real part of anything, and while they were on the road other teachers had to pick up the slack. Dr. Berger immediately recognized the fallacy of this policy and ended it. The financial savings alone runs into millions of dollars.
In athletics, Dr. Berger moved to separate physical education from interscholastic athletics. This move should give each an identity of its own and encourage excellence beyond that already achieved.
BTC Furthermore, he instructed the coordinator of athletics to move game times to later in the day so that valuable class time would not be lost by students and their teacher-coaches. At a time of fiscal restraint he is encouraging athletic programs to be self-supporting.
While teachers generally are often said to fear and loathe Dr. Berger, it should be pointed out that the budget he submitted to the county executive included a much-needed pay raise and restructuring. The average teacher would have realized a $1,400 increase in pay.
After three years of no raises and a de facto income loss of more than 20 percent over the previous four years due to inflation and increased taxes, this raise was crucial not only to the financial well-being of teachers but to their morale as well.
Dr. Berger also has been taken to task for suggesting that no letter grades be given in the early grades. He was pilloried for that. Yet during the so-called golden years of Baltimore County education in the 1950s, letter grades were not given in elementary school.
Dr. Berger is forceful and arrogant. The school board knew what they were getting when they hired him. His image as a hired gun who rides into town and cleans house, then rides off into the sunset seems appropriate.
But he is dynamic and knowledgeable in the field of education. I have often wondered this year what he could accomplish if he settled in and became involved in the long-term process of again making the Baltimore County public schools one of the finest systems in the nation.
The writer is chairman of the health, physical education and athletics department at Hereford High School.