The Baltimore Sun

Scores can't capture meaning of learning

When too much emphasis is placed on standardized test scores, I'm afraid that we forget what we want our children to learn ("Blacks in Suburbs Failing Md. Exams," Sept. 6).

When I look back on my high school education, I can't for the life of me remember specific dates from history or equations from math class.

But I do remember taking the SATs, being unable to finish the math sections and feeling like the test didn't accurately measure my abilities.

Fortunately, colleges considered my overall academic record, my extracurricular activities, my writing ability and how I conducted myself in an interview, not just my SAT scores.

But the central role that standardized testing has now assumed in our public school systems as we seek to categorize students, teachers, administrators and schools is sad at best and frightening at worst.

There are so many elements that make teachers effective and students outstanding that to try to reduce all that to a number is unjust.

Yes, as a community we must hold our teachers accountable. But evaluation and judgment must come from a variety of sources to be valid.

I, for one, want my children's educators to teach them to think critically and creatively and to be good citizens and to feed their curiosity.

Shouldn't we be asking how these traits are measured?

Rene Burgos


The writer is a student in a master's program in teaching English as a second language and bilingual education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Parents are the key to students' success

Test scores in suburban schools, or any school for that matter, may be explained, in large part, by the presence or absence of these factors ("Blacks in Suburbs Failing Md. Exams," Sept. 6):

Parents reading books to their children at an early age.

Parents encouraging their children to read.

Children observing their parents reading books.

Parents attending parent-teacher conferences.

Parents showing just as much, if not more, support for educational achievement as for success in sports.

Parents limiting how much TV kids may watch on school nights.

Parents monitoring their children's homework and school projects.

The good news is that dealing with these issues requires no infusion of government money.

Rather, it requires only an effort by parents to get more involved, from the beginning, in their children's education.

James A. Rothschild


Technical schools shine on the exams

Reading through the High School Assessment test scores of various schools, I was struck by the fact that the highest scores in Baltimore County were at Eastern Technical and Western Technical high schools, both of whose students outscored those in schools that produce considerably more college-bound graduates ("Blacks in Suburbs Failing Md. Exams," Sept. 6).

In fact, Eastern Technical High School's scores were superior to those of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, which is an honors and college-prep high school.

With scores so remarkably high at these technical schools (scores as high as 99 percent to 100 percent passing), the Maryland State Department of Education needs to take a hard look at the faculty and teaching methods that enabled their students to outscore their peers.

Charlotte Eliopoulos

Glen Arm

Invest in youths to boost the city

After reading "City is fighting battle against violence - and hopelessness" (Sept. 2), it seemed to me that The Sun itself must be losing the battle against hopelessness because the reporter seemed to struggle to find anyone either working to make a difference in the city or with ideas about how to improve the admittedly difficult situation in many of Baltimore's neighborhoods.

But I know hundreds of people who are actually working to make Baltimore a better place to live.

And I also have an idea that, if implemented, could eventually lower crime rates and raise graduation rates.

I think we need to help all of our troubled youth, especially the boys, as they struggle to become young adults.

And I suggest that we devote massive resources to changing the lives of our 10-to-14-year-olds.

These children need sports leagues, one-on-one mentoring, after-school programs, church youth programs, more and better recreation centers, academic tutoring and even employment counseling as they make the critical choice between a life on the streets and a life in the larger society.

Ten-year-old boys need to be convinced that they can find a decent job, may want to get married and, most important, that they won't die by the time they are 21.

The streets, and perhaps The Sun, are selling hopelessness to our youth; we need to fight back against hopelessness itself.

Peter Duvall


Florida Democrats didn't move primary

Regarding the editorial "Primary lunacy" (Sept. 4), it should be noted that the Democrats in Florida are being punished for actions taken by a Republican-controlled legislature and a Republican governor.

Democrats in both houses of the legislature opposed the change in the primary date.

As a result, most Democratic candidates have agreed not to campaign in Florida prior to its primary. In addition, the Republican state leadership has scheduled a statewide vote on a controversial property tax bill to coincide with the primary.

If Democrats feel disenfranchised, they may not vote at all, thus boosting the tax measure's chances of passing.

David Herstein

West Palm Beach, Fla.

Patience runs out on drunken driving

It was ironic that on the same day that Maryland launched the annual Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign - a statewide law enforcement effort to combat drunken driving through increased use of sobriety checkpoints - a Baltimore couple transporting their granddaughter were killed by a suspected drunken driver in Carroll County ("Six road deaths in 24 hours," Aug. 31).

And now those unfortunate grandparents will never see their granddaughter again.

Law enforcement and public education efforts to deter and prevent drunken driving like the one announced last week in Maryland can aid in combating this killer that claims a life every 33 hours in the state.

However, when all is said and done, campaigns like this one must be met with personal responsibility by drivers.

Maryland's patience with the more than 25,000 drivers in the state annually arrested for driving under the influence has worn thin.

Together, we need to do everything possible to prevent the next would-be impaired driver from turning the key.

To do less would send a terrible message to the victims of intoxicated drivers - that we in Maryland somehow find this week's tragedies acceptable.

Neal J. Pedersen


The writer is administrator of the State Highway Administration.

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