READERS SPEAK OUT ON IMPROVING CITY SCHOOLS

The Baltimore Sun

Sara Neufeld's recent three-part profile of Baltimore Schools CEO Andr?s Alonso uses the frame of a single charismatic personality to turn much-needed attention to urban school systems' ongoing struggles to meet the educational needs of their most underserved students ("Andr?s Alonso," Feb. 8- Feb. 10).

Throughout the series, she returns to perhaps the central reason why city schools in Baltimore - and in so many other urban centers nationwide - continue to languish: the perception that, as Ms. Neufeld writes, "things are as they always will be."

To affect real change in urban schools, we need much more than individual administrators who believe in city students' capacity to learn. We need much more than grass-roots initiatives that improve conditions at specific schools while leaving the rest unchanged. We need to work collaboratively, as a community, to take aim at the insidious notion that children of color and children of lower socioeconomic backgrounds are predestined to fail.

Universities and colleges play a key role in this effort. We prepare the teachers who stand on the front lines in this critical battle, who must also learn how to navigate the administrative systems that surround them.

Frankly, the way we've been preparing teachers is not wholly adequate to the challenges we still face in urban teaching, learning and schooling. We must prepare a new generation of teachers who understand the dynamics of race, culture and academic identity and how they impact students' achievement success in school.

This new generation of teachers will create learning environments in their classrooms that develop "identities of achievement" in their students and powerful instructional collaboration with their colleagues.

I look forward to working with my colleagues at colleges and universities throughout Maryland, as well as with Mr. Alonso and his team, to further this ambitious goal.

Peter C. Murrell, Baltimore

The writer is dean of the School of Education at Loyola College.

One of the experiences cited in the series on Baltimore schools CEO Andr?s Alonso sticks in my mind: I'm outraged that he received no response to a child murdered at a city school. At the time, I wrongly believed that the response would come from the school community, and felt no need to speak up. I am speaking now.

The idea of "use it or lose it" doesn't simply apply to the economic stimulus package. "Use it or lose it" also applies to our voices. If we don't say that we care, who will know that we do?

It is not OK to rip off our children through education funding inequities across the state. Mr. Alonso has brought hope to all of us who believe in city schools. He is the spark we need for change. But if there's nothing to light, his work will be to no avail.

I've written my representatives and the governor about the school funding disparities. I say raise your voice now - use it or lose it.

Gina Foringer, Baltimore

The writer is vice president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Mount Washington Elementary School.

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