Video made to support outcomes-based schooling Parents group hopes to cut through educators' jargon, stop misinformation

September 09, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

A parent group has written and produced a 17-minute video that members hope will generate more support for outcomes-based education.

PROBE, which stands for Parents Responding to Outcomes-Based Education, so far includes seven members, said co-chairwoman M. Lynn Earp, who lives on Boxwood Avenue in Westminster with her husband and two children.

"I'm just a mom who found a good idea that should have been talked about a long time ago," Ms. Earp said.

But plenty of people aren't convinced outcomes are a good idea, and Ms. Earp already has gotten some hot reactions from friends and acquaintances. They run into her at the store, the pool, the doctor's office, and ask what she's up to this summer.

She tells them she's been working to better inform other parents about outcomes-based education, and that she thinks it's a great idea.

That's when the indignation begins, she said, with questions such as, "How can you support a system that is set up to fail?"

The outcomes approach to education means schools clearly define what students should know and be able to do by the end of a unit, course or their entire schooling. The concept also requires setting high academic standards and providing ways for all students to meet the goals.

Opponents have said the approach focuses on behavior and values at the expense of academics, and that it could open the door for homosexual rights to be taught in classrooms, under the protection of multicultural education.

Ms. Earp decried those arguments.

She said she and other members are prepared for more angry reaction from those who oppose outcomes, such as members of the Carroll County Citizens for Quality Education, a parent group that formed in May after the school board approved seven broad "exit outcomes."

"I have broad shoulders," she said. "It takes a lot to affect me. It's certainly not going to make me change my opinion."

Ms. Earp said she doesn't want to get into shouting matches with Citizens for Quality Education, and doesn't want PROBE to be seen as an advocacy group for outcomes.

The group supports outcomes, she said, but the main goal is to help parents learn more, and to decipher the educational jargon. She said the group probably would have formed even if the opposing group had not.

The group's mission statement says it wants to "inform those parents and citizens who are still confused, or sitting on the fence about exit outcomes. PROBE members were once confused and misinformed; now, with a clear and more concise understanding of exit outcomes, we are excited to share our information and viewpoints with you."

The video has three segments. It opens with Carolyn MacKenzie, president of the Carroll County Council of PTAs, sitting in her living room and explaining the concept of outcomes.

Then PROBE co-chairman Jeff Waters of Winfield is shown in the Winfield Elementary School library explaining the process in Carroll County. Mike DeBoy of Sykesville, another member, is shown at Liberty High School further describing the work that parents and teachers did this summer on outcomes.

The next segment has Ms. Earp and PROBE member Geri Wu of Westminster sitting at Landon Burns Park, discussing the controversy over outcomes.

All seven members of PROBE were involved in the "essential curriculum workshop" in June. They sat with teachers for four days and defined what outcomes the school system already expected of students in each course and unit.

Over the next year, teachers and parents will review that work, and later decide what specific outcomes to add or delete.

The school board approved seven broad "exit outcomes" in May. Those say that students will be "able communicators, perceptive problem solvers, collaborative workers, involved citizens, innovative producers, lifelong learners and individuals with a positive self-concept."

Ms. Earp supports those goals,but would like to rewrite the whole thing -- in English instead of educational jargon.

"Innovative producers?" she said. That's the outcome that refers to children being able to be creative in math, or appreciate the arts.

"Able communicators?" she said. "Why not just say, 'Children should be able to communicate knowledge of subject matter without having to memorize it?' " she asked.

"They just started out with this jargon that scared the you-know-what out of us," Ms. Earp said.

That set up the school system to take a beating from a parent group that opposes outcomes, she said.

"Then you have this group that does speak in our language saying the bad things," Ms. Earp said, referring to Carroll County Citizens for Quality Education.

Most of the parents in PROBE were skeptical about outcomes-based education until they took part in the curriculum workshop along with teachers and subject-area supervisors.

Ms. Earp and another group member, Pat Snavlin of South Colonial Avenue in Westminster, presented the videotape to the school board yesterday and read prepared statements.

"When I originally began working on exit outcomes . . . I was confused by the jargon and to what direction the school system was taking," said Mrs. Snavlin.

"None of this made much sense to me in the beginning, and it is easy to understand why there is so much confusion to our community at large."

Ms. Earp asked the board members to consider copying the tape and supplying a copy to each school building for parents to view.

She also said PROBE will sponsor a meeting in October for PTA and PTO officers, and ask them to hold meetings in each school to show the tape and inform parents.

Board President Carolyn Scott later thanked Ms. Earp during a break in the meeting.

"I was very pleased to hear the other side being presented," Mrs. Scott said. "I knew that there were parents out there who felt this way, because they've worked on the committees.

"We looked at their video during our lunch break," Mrs. Scott said of board members. "I think they've done a good job of explaining this whole process."

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