Taking concerns to school officials


Carroll County residents expressed frustration at crowding in South Carroll schools and bewilderment at their schools' spotty performance on MSPAP tests during a meeting last night with the State Board of Education.

Del. Joseph M. Getty, who was among about 40 people who attended the meeting at Liberty High School, called for a two-year moratorium on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests while the board reassesses their validity.

"The scores have our administrators scratching their heads, and that means the assessment aspect is missing the mark," Getty said.

Getty, a Republican from Manchester, said he wonders why the same group of pupils scores lower on the tests as they progress to subsequent grades. "We can't assume the same bunch of students all of a sudden became stupid," he said.

Other parents said the curriculum has become too centered on MSPAP, with buzzwords and jargon more emphasized than concepts.

The state released its MSPAP scores, designed to assess elementary and middle schools, on Monday. For the third consecutive year, Carroll's statewide ranking dropped, this time to ninth place.

This marks the second consecutive year and the second overall since the program began in 1993 that Carroll has placed outside the top four of the state's 24 school systems. Last year, the 28,000-student system ranked seventh.

The most recent MSPAP results also raised questions for Carroll administrators about the test itself. Other assessments show Carroll pupils improving in areas in which MSPAP scores sagged.

The meeting was not timed to occur shortly after the release of MSPAP scores, said state board spokesman Anthony South.

Crowding has become an annual concern for South Carroll middle and elementary schools. Parents in Eldersburg and Mount Airy have complained most vociferously, although Mount Airy will get a new elementary school in 2004.

Nancy Heasley, who works part time at Sykesville Middle School, told the state board that schools in South Carroll remain crowded.

Race also was a popular topic with speakers. Several people said the schools discipline minority students more harshly than nonminority students.

Ginelle Brinson of Mount Airy said her son's fifth-grade teacher prevented him from giving an oral report about Malcolm X because the teacher said the religious and political leader was too violent, even though reports about Native American warrior chiefs had been presented. "Now he thinks there's something wrong with Malcolm X," Brinson said.

Board members did not respond to comments, saying they would respond to requests for feedback after their meeting next month.

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