Educators told to write in plain English for public

January 31, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Once again, people are telling school officials to cut out the jargon.

A group of business people told school administrators Friday that the list of "exit outcomes" they are presenting to the public would get a much better reception if the list were written in plain language.

Parents have been saying much the same thing at meetings held especially for them by the Carroll Council of PTAs.

"You must explain what you mean in the language," said Pat Donoho, manager of compensation and benefits at Random House. "People are confused. You have not been specific. It turns a lot of people off when it's education jargon. You didn't take the effort to explain it to your audience."

The "outcomes" are standards for what students should know and be able to do by the time they graduate. The idea is for the administrators and teachers to use it as a guide for molding and refining the curriculum.

The Board of Education is expected to approve the document sometime this spring.

People reading it, however, are stumbling over some of the language. For example, a section on students becoming generally articulate as well as proficient in math calls for "able communicators," defined as "individuals who can access, process, analyze, evaluate, apply, and convey information to manage an ever expanding body of knowledge in exchanging and creating ideas."

Gary Dunkleberger, director of curriculum and staff development, admitted Friday that the document is a bit vague, but he said it is meant to be a "global" statement so the leaders in specific subject areas will use the philosophy in it to make more specific lists of skills and qualities.

He said a group of 10 PTA presidents and two business people would meet to review the comments from the recent public forums.

"If the bottom line is we have too much jargon in there that only educators can understand, we need to get it out," Superintendent R. Edward Shilling told the Board of Education at its meeting last month.

C. Scott Stone, the newest board member, said he also felt the document could be more direct.

"I don't disagree with the content," Mr. Stone said. "But I'm one of those people who agree it can be more clearly presented to the public."

More than 700 teachers, administrators, parents, students, business people and community leaders spent several months last year drafting the set of seven broad standards that they agreed are essential outcomes of a good education.

As it is written now, the list says the three most critical standards are that students communicate well, have a positive self-image, and identify and solve problems.

The remaining four standards suggest that students should learn to work well with others, continue to learn throughout their lives, create or at least appreciate the arts and be involved citizens.

Terri Meushaw, director of the New Windsor Conference Center, said the document would have been better written in the more frank language that Dr. Dunkleberger used in his presentation.

The meeting Friday drew about 30 people from industry, retail, insurance, banking, social services and other businesses.

The business people also expressed concern about whether teachers would be trained to carry out the new approach, such as measuring how well students meet these standards, and whether class sizes could be smaller so teachers have the time to do the measuring.

Brian Lockard, deputy superintendent, said the outcomes don't come attached to a request for money, but smaller class sizes definitely would help the system meet the goals.

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