MSPAP flunks classroom test for teachers, pupilsNow...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MSPAP flunks classroom test for teachers, pupils

Now it becomes clear. The dismaying achievement level of fifth-graders in my daughter's class in one of the city elementary schools is explained in large part, thanks to Christopher Doherty's article ("MSPAP testing should start later," Perspective, June 18).

In his commentary on the emphasis on Maryland School Performance Assessment Program in the K-3 grades, he has shed light on the misuse of MSPAP in those early school years and the later danger to the students' basic skill and knowledge levels.

My daughter was a first-time fifth-grade teacher in a city school and found early in the school year that many in her class had third-grade math skills and vocabulary skills far below fifth-grade level.

She addressed the math deficits first, knowing that the class should not try to grasp fractions unless they had a better grasp basic math skills.

She spent much time on the basics in number skills and later in the fall, she was called down for not staying with the fifth-grade school plan. At this point, she was behind in subject matter (which was to be covered in the MSPAP) and the school principal and other department heads were upset.

They told her to expose the students to the material and move on. She was not to dwell on the material but to move ahead to cover all the material according to schedule. Too bad for the student who might not catch on in the short time-frame.

She has now resigned from the staff, and will be teaching outside the city system. And on her own, she is tutoring one of the fifth-graders who will be promoted to sixth grade this year. He is too old to hold back, and yet his vocabulary and reading skills are at second-grade level.

This is a clear case of basic skills being set aside in those early years for the sake of MSPAP performance. And my daughter's students are clear victims in this misguided system.

Lindsey Branch

Baltimore

Christopher Doherty has finally put boldly into print the very words that have been whispered by every primary grade teacher in Maryland: "Precious classroom time in kindergarten, first and second grade is being spent on MSPAP prep."

These are, indeed, the grades in which every minute should be spent in the teaching of basic skills, the skills that ultimately must be applied in successfully completing the MSPAP.

Having spent more than 20 years in the business world, I agree completely with the premise of MSPAP.

To be able to work with and communicate with fellow employees and to be able to apply knowledge gained in school to on-the-job situations should be the goal of education.

However, as an elementary school teacher with many years of experience, I disagree strongly that third grade is an appropriate place to expect this to happen.

Developmentally, the application expected on MSPAP is well beyond all but the most academically gifted students.

It would make far more sense to have the current third-grade "test" administered by fourth-grade teachers, one task each quarter, guiding their students through the test as a learning experience.

By fifth grade, then, students would be at a point where they should have acquired sufficient academic skills, experience and maturity and be developmentally prepared to tackle an awesome task such as the MSPAP as a natural outcome of learning.

This would most certainly cut down significantly on the time spent trying to "force" this to happen by third grade.

Karen McDonald

Ellicott City

Danmark model ship for mixed gender crew

As a volunteer member for OpSail 2000, I served as a ship's liaison to the training ship from Denmark, the Danmark. Your article, "It's not supposed to be the Love Boat" (June 27), was really way off the mark.

I had the opportunity to work and eat alongside the cadets of the Danmark to the point that they considered me another crew member, and I detected no hint or sign of the kind of sexual tension that the writer of the article implied.

I was surprised that the male and female cadets lived and worked together. During my time aboard the vessel, they really proved that men and women can work and eat together.

They are a shining example of how our military personnel could work together if they ever mature to the point in which co-ed living conditions ever come to pass.

While the cadets and crew were amused by the article, as the American representative, I was ashamed and embarrassed by the blatant attempt by The Sun to deliberately insult these ambassadors invited to our country as guests.

Christopher Krieg

Baltimore

Internet taxes have some faults

In his article "State must levy tax on Web sales" (June 30), William Donald Schaefer proposes that Maryland establish a system for collecting sales tax on items sold via the Internet that would be taxed had they been sold in a retail store.

This is certainly reasonable but not necessarily the best answer to the problem. Perhaps it is time to eliminate the sales tax altogether.

From all standpoints, this would be a less expensive solution than trying to enhance the sales tax collection mechanism to handle Internet sales.

How do the states replace the lost revenue? Merely by increasing the tax rate on people's income. This collection system already exists.

Why do we need two collection systems when one will do?

Furthermore, the sales tax is a more regressive tax, taking a greater percentage of money from lower-income people than from wealthier people.

The income tax can be easily adjusted to be more progressive merely by establishing sliding-scale rates based on a person's annual income.

Paul F. Hosman

Elkridge

William Donald Schaefer never saw a tax he didn't like. Now he says it's unfair to local business.

A year ago I checked out a book from the library, wanted to buy it, went to a very large regional mall and visited a national book store chain. Their computer couldn't find the book. I was told to come back in a week.

I went home, logged on to the Internet, bought the book (at a discount) and had it in three days. If local merchants wish to compete, they should do it.

I suggest to my fellow citizens that next April (when they have all the data) they add up federal, state and local income taxes, Social Security taxes, property taxes, taxes on phone and utility bills, license tag fees, estimated gasoline taxes and sales taxes.

Then they should compare this number to their total income. Most will find that the number approaches 50 percent of gross income. I think enough is enough.

Harold Screen

Baltimore

Penn Line rail cleanup to improve city image

Congratulations to Mayor Martin O'Malley, Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari and Amtrak officials for the very necessary decision to clean up the trash that is found along the Penn Line.

I have been commuting daily between Baltimore and Washington for almost seven years, and it breaks my heart to see the trash that is dumped along this highly traveled train line.

I think about the poor impression visitors must have of Baltimore as they travel through to other destinations and what could be done to improve our image.

Let's hope that the city residents who so carelessly dump their trash along this route find another venue for their trash, perhaps a trash can or the city dump.

Lynn Marcin

Baltimore

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