Reduce size of classes in city schoolsI am a fifth-grade...

the Forum

September 17, 1993

Reduce size of classes in city schools

I am a fifth-grade teacher at a Baltimore City elementary school. On our first day back at school, I brought 26 students into my class. You can never be certain how these kids feel coming back, but I know that my own excitement and expectations had been building for weeks. It was amazing for me to imagine, but I was rather glad that summer was over and I could put a bunch of new ideas into action.

Two days after the start of classes, so many students had been assigned to my class that I ran out of desks and chairs. But that didn't stop them from coming. Somewhere around 35 kids, my frustration peaked and I simply refused to accept any more students.

As things were, the children I already had were going to receive a severely diminished amount of my attention, and even up until the day that I put these thoughts into words, the school was forced to assign me two more students.

The school is not at fault, having to follow the mandates of the school board stating that 35 children in a fifth-grade class is acceptable. My high hopes have been vanquished by high enrollment.

There is no newfangled educational reform, no rewritten curriculum, no Tesseract, that could be as simple and as effective in providing children the education they deserve as reducing class size. Ask any teacher. I am daily amazed by the ones I have the fortune to work with, but with rooms swollen with students, how can you not end up teaching the class rather than the student? Some kids are still able to rise above the situation and progress, but how much more could they grow? Others are bound to become discouraged, lose faith, lose track and fall behind.

A recent four-year study funded by the state of Tennessee followed 6,500 elementary school students in classes that ran from 17 to 25 students and found those children outperformed kids in regular-sized classes by significant margins as measured by test scores such as the SAT. In Minneapolis, voters ap proved a referendum last year by a 2-1 margin that calls for reducing class size to 19 in kindergarten through second grade, and to 25 students in grades three through eight.

Baltimore City schools have the largest class sizes in Maryland and end up with some of the worst test scores.

Parents, teachers, principals and community leaders need to join together and somehow clear the minds of our elected and appointed officials to "get the message." These are our schools, our classes, our kids. We shouldn't let this happen.

Peter French

Baltimore

Poe and the Babe

In his column on Sept. 8, John Steadman stated that Baltimore should not name its prospective new football team the Ravens because "the man who wrote the poem, Edgar Allan Poe, was an unfortunate public drunk."

Is this the same sportswriter who waged a long campaign to name our baseball park after Babe Ruth? The Babe was the greatest ballplayer of all time, and I think Babe Ruth Park would have been an excellent choice. But surely Mr. Steadman knows that when it came to alcohol, Ruth wasn't known for temperance and moderation.

One can't help but wonder what thought process, if any, Mr. Steadman employs to reach such wildly inconsistent conclusions.

Don Brizendine

Baltimore

MARC fares

I read the Sept. 9 article about the proposed fare increases for MARC scheduled for Oct. 1 and had already made my concerns known to the hearing officer by mail, as we were advised we could do. The reply I received basically reiterated the press releases.

Yes, we know they need an increase, but 24 percent? The occasional rider will be paying between 3 and 9 percent more. Regulars shoulder the brunt.

And no, they cannot compare the fares to other systems. SEPTA, METRA, MBTA and CALTRANS provide service seven day a week, and NJ Transit, Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road even provide limited middle-of-the-night service.

Try getting home on a Brunswick or Camden line train at noon or after 7 p.m.

Do MARC riders need that kind of service? Maybe, but probably not. A little more off-peak weekday service maybe. More parking, and better maintenance.

But even that does not justify this increase. If the railroads are charging more, maybe a little legislation is in order.

After all, this is the service they got rid of because they lost money. Now they're not happy just to make a little for doing a public service.

I have spoken out. I hope it's not too late for my 18,449 fellow commuters.

Steve Erlitz

Elkridge

Crime epidemic

Some weeks ago, in response to our increasing crime epidemic, President Clinton announced a plan that will have the federal government supply the tax dollars needed to put 120,000 more police officers on the streets.

Sounds great doesn't it?

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