Tough Real Life2 The writer represents the Washington...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

June 18, 1993

Tough Real Life

2 The writer represents the Washington Capitals.

Being No. 1

As the father of four- and five-year-old girls, I feel the primary responsibility of a parent is to create a nurturing environment where the children can develop their unique gifts.

My wife and I, as did our parents before us, will provide every opportunity to participate in dance classes, music classes, Girl Scouts, and sports as our children show an interest.

We hope that along the way they will find it fun, while learning something about themselves and the world around them.

Amanda White is truly an amazing individual, in addition to being a national-caliber swimmer with Olympic aspirations.

She is active in her church and her high school Young Life Club. She won at least 17 state championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track -- all this while holding down a perfect 4.0 average.

The Whites, like many good families, were there for her at every practice, class and event, as they are for their two younger children, cheering loudly and comforting quietly.

Amanda's decision to pursue the valedictorian position in her class came from a sincere desire to show that athletes can also be scholars.

To sit by and watch your daughter run a noble race flawlessly for four years to lose it on the two-yard line due to a mistake made by the administration of the high school would be more than any caring father could stand.

It was the school administration which misled Amanda. All Stan White was trying to do was level the playing field.

We all agree the system needs to be reviewed and changed. Hopefully his short-lived suit will be impetus for that change.

Eric Fondersmith

Towson

Unfair School Ranking System

During a recent family visit, I was struck by a series of articles, including an editorial, regarding the selection of a valedictorian at Dulaney High School.

I agree with the headline of your editorial of Saturday, June 5, "Who's No. 1? Who Cares?" However, I disagree with what appears to be your idea of the important issues presented by this silly situation.

Yes, it's silly to care about who's number one in a graduation class. It's also silly for a newspaper with the reputation of The Sun to spend so much front page space and ink on the gripes of one whiny parent.

It's not silly, however, that youfailed to notice a more important problem with the quality point scale used by the Baltimore County public school system to assign class rank: its essential unfairness.

Students presumably are placed in classes based on their readiness to learn the material in those classes. Yet this point system stacks the deck.

It gives more credit to a "gifted" student who may have given moderate effort to learning the material and earned a C in a course appropriate to his ability level, than to an intellectually challenged student who has worked hard, tried her best and accomplished all and more than was asked of her and earned an A.

The first student gets 5 points of credit toward class rank, the second only 3.

Giving differential credit to courses offering differing levels of academic challenge ignores an important element in the equation: the student's readiness to learn the course material.

"Gifted" kids are ready to learn from academically accelerated courses. They should get no more or no less credit for doing well in courses appropriate for them than kids who are advanced, standard or academically challenged.

This system, as it stands, is unfair to the great majority of &L students in the Baltimore County public school system.

If the unfairness related only to the assignment of a class rank, this would be just another element in an already silly situation. However, the unfairness goes beyond rank assignment.

It sends a message loud and clear to teachers, parents and students as to who counts and who doesn't. This system says that "gifted" classes count more; the kids in them deserve more.

What does it say to the kids in average, standard or special education classes? How much do they count? How much does the learning that goes on in such classes count?

And finally, what does it say to the teachers of those classes about the importance of their role as educators? How hard should they try?

Some assert that gifted classes are "harder," that they require more of their students. Should these students be given more credit, or should we turn our eyes instead to the content and rigor of those other classes that are less demanding of the students in them?

Rather than saying that some kids deserve to have more demanded of them and should get extra credit for it, shouldn't we be saying that all kids should be challenged and all kids should have as much demanded of them as they are capable of accomplishing?

This quality point system represents an elitist attitude that can pervade a school system and undermine the learning of the great majority of students who are being told that what they are learning in school counts less.

Perhaps if this incident brings an end to a class-rank system that is fundamentally unfair, it won't be so silly after all.

Dale Whittington

Akron, Ohio

The writer is director of the office of assessment, evaluation and accreditation at the University of Akron College of Education.

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