Time to rethink exit exams for Md. high schools

Maryland state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick was pushing for make-or-break, one-size-fits-all high school exit exams (the Maryland High School Assessments) long before the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation was contemplated. It was, therefore, quite a surprise when Ms. Grasmick cried foul last week, when Maryland's No Child Left Behind test results were released, commenting that the U.S. Department of Education might want to rethink its progress standards for students with disabilities ("Educators debate rules of assessment," Aug. 23).

While NCLB has its flaws, at least it wasn't designed to punish students. But from preliminary high school test results we can predict that special education students will lose diplomas in tragically high numbers if the state school board votes in September to tie the tests to the diploma - something that is not required by NCLB.

Now that Ms. Grasmick has "seen the light" on high-stakes testing, maybe there is hope that she will rethink the high school assessment program as well.

Naznin R. Adams

Fort Washington

The writer is executive director of the Parent Advocacy Network for Differently-Abled.

Parents must be accountable for kids

Gregory Kane made my day with his column regarding school suspensions ("Parents still play key role in student's discipline," Aug. 23).

Christopher Maher of Advocates for Children calls suspension a "backwards policy" that can send "a child away from a learning environment, and in some cases ... from the only stable environment in that child's life."

But as Mr. Kane states, "Public schools are here to educate children, not raise them. Raising them is the parents' job."

When are parents going to accept this responsibility?

Marian J. Byrne


Focus on bad news doesn't help schools

As a recent graduate of the Baltimore County public schools, I always follow with interest The Sun's reporting on the Baltimore area public schools. And the recent article "Exams reveal racial divide, math troubles" (Aug. 24) is all too typical of this coverage.

Rather than wasting time mentioning schools meeting with success, the article goes in depth concerning widespread failures in the system.

While it is lamentable that many of our schools have students who are not succeeding, perhaps The Sun should shift its focus to those students and those schools that are working at the highest level, and consider how they got there.

The constant finger-pointing at administrators, parents, technology, testing and teacher instruction accomplishes nothing, and the incessant negative press for the schools does more harm than good.

Tyler Woulfe


Use slots revenues for public projects

I support House Speaker Michael E. Busch's concept of state-owned and state-controlled slots ("Tracks receive setback on slots," Aug. 20).

I do not believe the broad interests of Maryland taxpayers are well-served by awarding slots to a few wealthy track owners. Better to provide a subsidy directly to the Maryland racing industry than to give them control of the slots.

If slots are coming to Maryland (again), then taxpayers should be the main beneficiaries, and important public policy issues should receive the majority of the funding.

Let's keep the special interests away from the money.

Mel Barnhart


Willing to sacrifice liberty for security

The Sun's dislike of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is no surprise. The Sun dislikes all conservatives in power. But while some are justifiably concerned about provisions of the Patriot Act, the loss of civil rights that left-wingers continuously whine about barely registers on the political radar screen of the average American ("Conservative backlash," editorial, Aug. 22).

America is still not immune to terrorist attacks. On the contrary, many of us realize that it is only a matter of time before the terror networks strike on our soil again.

And when that occurs, the vast majority of Americans will again be willing to sacrifice some civil liberties to obtain safety and security, and will move even further to the political right.

If you want to know what happens when civil liberties become paramount in an administration at the expense of everything else, you need look no further than the Clinton administration, and the resulting nightmare that unpreparedness wrought.

Michael DeCicco


Blind faith isn't key to patriotism

I commend The Sun for its editorial aimed at U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, criticizing certain provisions of the Patriot Act ("Conservative backlash," Aug. 22).

This decidedly illegal and undemocratic piece of legislation deserves a very critical analysis by both liberals and conservatives. What is at stake is nothing less than our identity as a nation. But unfortunately the argument over the validity of the Patriot Act is often put in partisan terms.

Patriotism is not, as Mr. Ashcroft would lead us to believe, defined by blind faith in the governing body. True patriotism requires strong participation in democracy, which, at times, creates healthy, active disagreements between citizens and their leaders.

It would be a horrible mistake to confuse the Orwellian Patriot Act with patriotism.

The Rev. Mike Patrick F. Smith


Patriotism obscures Bush's policy failures

After reading Steve Chapman's thorough outlining of all the current administration's failures in foreign policy, I tried once again to make sense of President Bush's high approval ratings ("President Bush succeeds through failure in foreign affairs," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 22).

I've come to the conclusion that there's only one way to account for those ratings. People must be foolishly allowing themselves to be swept away by patriotism without bothering to read or listen to what's actually happening.

Ellen Moats


Israeli approach won't stop terror

The letter "A taste of the hate Israelis know so well" (Aug. 20) suggests "Perhaps the United States needs to bring in the Israeli Defense Forces as consultants to learn how to deal with terrorism in Iraq."

But given Israel's utter failure to end terrorism for decades, I doubt Israeli consultants would do anything but add fuel to the fire.

Our invasion and occupation of Iraq, especially in the chest-beating, United Nations-be-damned manner the Bush administration approached it, was an irrestistible taunt to U.S.-hating terrorists. In short, we asked for it.

Until the United States and Israel learn that cleaning their own houses of wrongdoing is more of a key to ending terrorism than retaliation and security measures, the attacks will never cease.

Scott Norris


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