State working to prepare students in math

In response to "A failing grade for Md. Math" (July 12), readers should be informed of what the education community in Maryland is doing to address the issue of mathematics education and, more broadly, to prepare students for college and the workplace.

Maryland has been working closely with Achieve, a nonprofit organization in Washington that is helping to lead the development of rigorous common national standards. Working with Achieve and other states, Maryland K-12 and higher education partners have participated in developing new Algebra II and English language-arts standards. As the Abell Foundation report referenced by reporter Liz Bowie notes, Maryland's Algebra II Voluntary State Curriculum was recently approved; so was the secondary English curriculum. As these new, more rigorous curricula are implemented statewide (and, potentially, as students are measured by assessments used in multiple states), we anticipate that students will be better prepared for college-level courses and that the need for remediation should decline.

Students can immediately improve their chances for success in college mathematics by taking rigorous mathematics in their senior year of high school. Both two- and four-year faculty have described to me the detrimental effect that skipping a year of mathematics can have on students' college performance. Students who were successful in high school college-preparatory mathematics arrive in college having forgotten necessary skills.

To address our education needs more broadly, in 2007 Gov. Martin O'Malley created the P-20 Leadership Council. The council, comprising education, business and child development leaders throughout the state, is tasked with coordinating efforts in education, workforce creation and business to ensure Maryland offers excellence in teaching and learning.

A P-20 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Task Force will offer its recommendations later this month. In May, Mr. O'Malley endorsed convening a College Success Task Force, which I co-chair with Maryland State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and whose membership includes educators, legislators and business leaders.

The College Success Task Force is examining Maryland prekindergarten-12 and higher education policies and practices pertaining to college readiness and college success. We are paying special attention to the areas of mathematics, reading and writing, with the goal of making recommendations for new practices to raise standards and ensure that completion requirements at the 12th grade are aligned with entrance expectations for postsecondary education.

Remediation in colleges is not a problem that is unique to Maryland, nor is its solution solely within higher education or in our public schools. Educators and families need to counsel our young people that mathematics, and indeed education, are more important than ever. We live in a more technologically dependent culture, and mathematics is needed in more careers than ever before, including those that do not require a bachelor's degree. This is a shift we are all responsible for communicating.

James E. Lyons Sr., AnnapolisThe writer is Maryland's secretary of higher education.

A rate increase in disguise?

BGE has officially requested permission to begin its campaign to install mandatory "smart meters" in all their customers' facilities (at our expense, no less) under the guise of making us better consumers with time of usage pricing information ("BGE betting on 'smart' meters," July 14).

Customers may now voluntarily request smart switches or programmable thermostats for home central air-conditioning systems and/or electric water heaters with cash discounts on bills.

Are the mandatory smart meters really a way of raising rates for those unable or unwilling to reduce prime time usage, which BGE determines?

Ron Buchman

BGE has charged plenty

Meter replacement is supposed to be a part of the "Customer Charge" that adds $20.50 to my bill each month, $7.50 for the electrical meter and $13 for the gas meter. In the 36 years that I have lived at the same address, the gas meter has been replaced once; the electrical meter never. Total money received by BGE for 36 years at $240-plus each year works out to $8,640.

It seems to me that BGE has a good deal going for itself - not the consumer! We have already paid a surcharge.

Paul Verchinski, Columbia

Get back to basics, BGE

I've been following the ongoing saga concerning Constellation Energy's merger with Electricit? de France along with the state investigation of Constellation CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III's possible monetary gains from said merger.

I retired from BG&E; on Feb. 1, 1994 and receive the same amount of pension today as I did on that date.

There has not been any type of cost-of-living increase in all that time - but the cost of health care, gasoline, groceries, etc., have increased tremendously.

Maybe Constellation should dissolve itself and forget BGE Home and go back to the original BG&E; - it used to be a good company when the only business it was in was providing good gas and electric service for Central Maryland.

James R. Price

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