In my travels as an educational adviser for the U.S. Department of State, I’ve encountered students in other countries who are learning English as a second language who spell better than American children. In countries like China or the Netherlands, the educational system holds children to standards, to accountable behaviors. These countries foster a tone of respect for education, ensuring parents are engaged and pass that onto children.
Educational leaders in America need to wake up. We can’t keep throwing money at our problems. I support the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission to raise the standards of education in Maryland — but first we need to evaluate how we spend the money we have (“Ambitious education plan moves forward in Maryland House of Delegates,” March 4). As the full House of Delegates prepares to debate Kirwan-based legislation this week, I urge lawmakers to tread carefully.
I’ve led Jemicy School in Baltimore for 18 years, serving college-bound kids with language-based learning differences. I advise schools abroad as a member of the State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools Advisory Committee on Exceptional Children. I’ve seen a lot of success in other countries and I think we could better use our existing resources.
Kirwan calls for higher teacher salaries, but no training or evaluation to ensure performance and use of evidence-based techniques. American universities still don’t train teachers to use the proven structured literacy approach that systematically examines English, teaching students a key to the language’s secret code. Instead, most American students learn by the less effective whole language approach that’s especially difficult for children with learning differences.
Let’s audit the system we have before tossing more money at our issues.
Ben Shifrin, Owings Mills
The writer is head of Jemicy School.
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