Letters to the Editor

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sun story reported one-sided evaluation

Once again, I'm appalled to discover a Sun education reporter relying on the school system to evaluate its own programs, overlooking history and fact in the process. In her article ("Most schools score well on new Md. Test," Aug. 24) on Anne Arundel County's test scores, Lynn Anderson offers assurance that middle schools are "switching from 50-minute class periods in math and language arts to 86-minute periods to ensure that pupils get the help they need."

Putting aside the illogic of subjecting all the high-achieving schools and students to remedial measures, and of assuming that these measures will work because "longer" equals better, Ms. Anderson's statement is patently false. In the case of language arts, the school system is not going from 50-minute to 86-minute periods. Rather language arts time is actually shorter this year than since 2000-2001. For example, students at Severna Park Middle had 55 minutes of language arts in 2000-2001, 115 minutes in 2001-2002, 94 minutes in 2002-2003, and 86 minutes in 2003-2004. Each one of these changes has been made in the name of giving children the help they need.

None of this is trivial or complicated for those of us whose children have been subjected to these scheduling shenanigans for the past three years. The drive to improve reading scores in particular has led our middle schools to diminish their curriculum and to subject current pupils to new, unprecedented schedules for three years in a row. It's a shame that the Sun can't find an objective source that can set its own reporters and readers straight.

Terra Ziporyn Snider

Annapolis

The writer is vice chairwoman, communications division, of Coalition for Balanced Excellence in Education.

Public schools need support of governor

I recently read an article in The Sun about Governor and Mrs. Ehrlich's decision to send their young child to a private school, at the cost of a few thousand dollars per academic school year. The factors contributing to their final decision were quoted from an interview with Mrs. Ehrlich; and these included small class size, introduction to a foreign language, attentive teaching, and exposure to technology in education.

Well, Governor and Mrs. Ehrlich, as a parent, I want the same things for my children; but I have been far from impressed by the public school system in Anne Arundel County. I see the public school system failing our children and you, Governor, as public servant to the citizens of Maryland, and you, Mrs. Ehrlich, as a public servant by association, ought to send your children to the same schools that are failing miserably as defined by recent reports of the Maryland State Assessments.

Only then, when our public officials experience the same frustrations and lack of choices the majority of us face each school year, only then, could we expect to see the change our school communities so desperately need.

Nonetheless, I am not so naive to think that our public officials and the governing school bodies should be the sole purveyors of quality education. A school system can be measured by the quality of its parts, the largest part of which is the student body. Students, wake up and participate in your own education; want to learn; put in the effort to improve your minds.

Respect your fellow students by behaving in such a way as to promote education, not to undermine it. Stop being "average" learners and believe you can be more. You are not amoebas sitting complacently in your desks hoping to nurture your minds through osmosis or diffusion. You are the largest piece in the puzzle; you can make the biggest difference in your lives.

Teachers, raise the achievement bar, stop teaching to the lowest common denominator. You are losing the best segment of the student body to boredom. Challenge them; challenge yourselves.

Parents, become learners yourselves. Set an example for your children by turning off the computer, turn off the TV. Support the teachers; if your child's teacher sends you a note for behavior, defend the teacher; put the responsibility on your child to behave. Stop making excuses for your child's laziness.

School administrators, encourage the student body and teaching staff to reach higher goals. Provide conditions so the teachers feel they can accomplish their tasks and want to accomplish their tasks. Allow greater access and instruction to the technology sitting idly in unused classrooms. Promote extracurricular activities and programs for the gifted; deviate from classroom homogeneity as there is much benefit for the student to be with like-minded learners. Be forceful in disciplinary action; remove the troublemakers so our teachers can teach and our children can learn.

School Board, stop making changes to the school system that make little logistical sense. Visit each of your schools; sit in on the classes; see what the student sees and what the teacher hears. You need to return to the trenches and rebuild from the bottom up. Education shouldn't be so difficult if you see the simplicity in the process. All children do not learn the same way; you may need to separate to effectively provide a quality education. School Board, go back to school for a year and then tell us our schools' environments aren't failing. Governor and Mrs. Ehrlich, your action shows your lack of support for the State's public school systems.

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and found public education to be far more advanced than what we see now. Are we really moving forward?

Diane Rubin

Odenton

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