Input urged for Balto. Co. grading system

At a Baltimore County school board meeting packed with dozens of people opposed to the use of a new student tracking system, leaders representing teachers, principals and parents asked the board for more public input into the review of the process.

The tracking system, called the Articulated Instruction Module, has come under fire in recent weeks from teachers, who say it is burdensome and redundant. The system, developed by a county school administrator, would require teachers to grade students on their mastery of about 100 skills in each subject. An emergency superintendent's bulletin requiring the new program was issued Dec. 18, but schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston backed away from it last week, saying he would work to streamline the program.

Last night, county PTA President Nancy Ostrow said parents were disappointed and frustrated that they have not been included in the "development and implementation" of the tracking system. The PTA has been following the initiative for the past two years, Ostrow said, but had not taken a position because "there was never an indication that AIM would become a mandatory student progress reporting tool."

John Desmone, who represents 200 administrative employees including principals, asked the board to "open up the process to input from the various constituent groups who have expressed concerns."

Teachers Association of Baltimore County President Cheryl Bost asked the board to seek input from teachers "instead of forcing this down the throats of teachers."

She requested that the board make teachers part of the decision-making process and extend the time for reviewing the program past Jan. 26, the date when Hairston has said the board will be presented with a streamlined AIM system.

James Beam, a math teacher from Parkville High School, praised Hairston for some of his previous initiatives. But he said with AIM, "He no longer works collaboratively with us." Beam said the AIM progress reports "should be taken off the table."

Several other teachers, speaking during the public comment section of the meeting, said they wanted the board to consider the increase in paperwork and time away from teaching that AIM would require.