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Old Testing Days Are OverI am writing...

Old Testing Days Are Over

I am writing on behalf of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland in response to Robert Moore's letter which appeared May 21.

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Our organization is deeply concerned that a specialist for education reform from the Maryland State Teachers Association believes that the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPP) is a "misguided . . . attempt to use questionable statistical methods to impose state control on local school boards through manipulating the curriculum" and also believes that MSPP is supported only by the state superintendent of schools.

Like the functional tests before them, MSPP's assessments were imperfect in their initial administrations. Like the functional tests today, the MSPP assessments will be widely accepted as accurate benchmarks of student performance in the near future.

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Contrary to the innuendoes in Mr. Moore's letter, MSPP assessments correlate with the curricula advocated by independent professional groups like the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics.

They do not match the curricula of "textbooks from the test's commercial publisher."

MSPP assessments and the reconstitution consequences associated with MSPP assessments are not designed to impose the will of the "educrats at the Maryland State Department of Education."

A careful review of the reconstitution process in Baltimore City underscores the state's conscious effort to set high standards, to measure local schools against those standards and to afford local school systems multiple opportunities to devise their own plans to improve the performance of schools which fall significantly short of those standards.

Finally, and most important, state Superintendent Nancy Grasmick is joined by 24 superintendents and scores of administrators, teachers, parents and community leaders in her support for MSPP and school reform.

We all recognize that schools must reform themselves if we are to meet our challenge to educate all students to a standard that was formerly expected of only our brightest students.

While Mr. Moore's statement that "none of the announced candidates [for governor] is supporting MSPP in its current . . . form" may be accurate, our organization does not believe any candidate will argue against holding all schools accountable for educating all students in Maryland to a higher standard.

The days of Lake Woebegone testing are over in Maryland, and, despite the efforts to undermine the performance tests that show us how far we have to go, high-takes accountability testing and school reform are here to stay at the state and local level.

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Wayne F. Gersen

Hagerstown

The writer is president of the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland.

Airborne Calls

A reader's letter April 16 questioned telephone company billing practices for calls that get a busy signal and for calculating the actual time of the call. He was specifically concerned about practices related to use of an AT&T; calling card at a pay phone and to the GTE Airfone Service.

GTE Airfone does not charge for calls that get a busy signal or for an unanswered ring. Charges are based on full minute increments on calls that are completed. Thus, a call that is just over a minute is billed at two minutes.

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If at any time a customer is dissatisfied with an Airfone call, dialing "O" while in flight will reach a customer service representative, who will be happy to credit the call.

Mary Thrasber

Oak Brook, Ill.

The writer represents GTE Airfone Inc.

Incinerator

I agree with the May 14 editorial that the City Council should proceed cautiously with Willard Hackerman's proposal for a large new Pulaski trash incinerator.

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The five-year moratorium on new incinerators gave a needed, reasonable breathing space for calm solid waste planning to occur.

The moratorium still has three years to run. The city's waste planning is nowhere near complete and planning for the region hasn't begun.

At this time, Mr. Hackerman's proposal is neither welcome nor exciting. The moratorium was passed in response to the very same proposal two years ago.

So why have a majority of council members rushed to co-sponsor a bill to prematurely end that moratorium, allow the new Pulaski burner and expansion of BRESCO, too?

Mr. Hackerman is dangling promises of money before the elected officials of a cash-strapped city government. Must we take what we can get, like a cash-poor third world country that accepts hazardous waste from a rich country?

The facility isn't needed for city trash. Nor has a regional need or interest been shown.

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Finally, given that dealing with Mr. Hackerman in the past has been a financial disaster for the city, why would any city politician want to have anything to do with him?

Thomas G. Garrison

Baltimore

Romantic Times

I am one of the individuals who attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Nashville. The only two mentions you seem to have published -- male model cover pageant and altercation with Playgirl -- made the convention and the romance novel industry seem frivolous.

The convention had 68 professional seminars that dealt with topics of interest to readers, aspiring authors, publishing and booksellers. A few were led by Maryland's own Nora Roberts.

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More than 100 published authors were available to share insights and knowledge.

Also Rebecca York, (also known as Ruth Glick and Eileen Buckholtz), a Baltimore author, was given a career achievement award for romantic mystery. This should have been stated in any of the coverage you gave.

Although I read all kinds of books, many people snicker when I indicate a liking for the romance novel. Yet there are romance authors (e.g. Nora Roberts) who can easily compete with the talents of the John Grishams and Tom Clancys of the world.

I have a theory that the public as a whole is really ready for romantic fiction (thus the popularity of the "Bridges of Madison County"), but don't try it if it is classified as romance.

I realize the romance industry needs to help in bettering its own image. However, I would like to see more positive articles on this type of fiction.

Patricia A. Suchy

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Columbia

Punishing Protest

Your May 20 editorial stated that the federal law to stop the violence of the pro-life movement was needed. I have to disagree.

While I do not condone the violence, I have to compare it with other social protests. When you do that, you find that the pro-life movement is one of the most peaceful in the history of our nation.

Shall we start with our American Revolution? Along the way, let's take a look at Shay's Rebellion, the movement to end slavery that resulted in a civil war and the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans.

How about the violent births of labor unions? How much violence and how many deaths came from the civil rights movement? Were the riots in Watts, Baltimore and other big cities not far more violent?

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I was in high school in Bel Air when they tried to blow up the courthouse and blew up themselves instead. Let's not forget the Vietnam War protests or what the gays are doing in Act-Up.

This federal law is not against violence. One day's violence in the streets of Baltimore is far worse than the whole history of the pro-life movement.

This law is about stopping the free expression of speech in a movement that you disagree with. This law is about punishing a protest that is not popular with the government.

If Martin Luther King would have had to face a law such as this, he might still be alive today, and in jail . . .

Ronald Harris

Port Deposit

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Tax Partners

My question is very simple. If the aspiring "domestic partners" are recognized as a family unit in the future, will they also be privileged to pay federal taxes at the married rate on their combined incomes, as my domestic partner (husband) and I are required to do?

Rosemary L. Shearer

Ellicott City

Welfare Reform

The Sun's editorial on welfare reform (May 1) reflects clearly what got us into the huge, costly mess that we call welfare and why it will be so hard to get meaningful reform enacted.

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I doubt that many working people will agree with The Sun's assessment that the present system is "the cheapest welfare system possible," and that "saving money is not what welfare reform is all about."

Working people in this state are being crushed under the heavy taxes imposed by the government. They are demanding welfare reform, and to them "saving money" is most definitely an important part of welfare reform.

Unfortunately, welfare reform in the past General Assembly session was held hostage by abortion extremists and proponents of the totally discredited ideas that got us into this welfare swamp.

The idea that it is somehow "unfair" to "punish" people by refusing to fund their abortions misses the whole point to welfare reform and why welfare is such a dismal failure.

That point is the basic truth that people have to be responsible for their own actions, and they must be held accountable by society for their actions.

Welfare dependency, crime, drug abuse, educational mediocrity and a host of our present public problems result from the inexplicable inability of our society to hold people accountable for themselves and to demand the same standards of others that we demand of the hard-working, law-abiding people who make up the vast majority of society.

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The Sun's attitude that it is the government's responsibility to help welfare recipients "limit the size of their families" reflects the paternalistic, irresponsible attitude that has got us into this mess.

People have to be responsible for themselves. Certainly, they and not the government should be held responsible for having children, just like the rest.

Sadly, The Sun and others just can't get out of the plantation mentality that says to people: "Don't worry, we know best. We'll take care of you."

Well, average folks have had it with that garbage. They are demanding that people be held accountable for their actions -- be they welfare recipients, criminals or drug abusers.

Michael W. Burns

Glen Burnie


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