Interpreting the Functional TestsSherry Joe's article...


September 04, 1994

Interpreting the Functional Tests

Sherry Joe's article, "Dip in writing scores blamed on winter," which appeared in the Howard County section of The Sun on July 29, contained several misinterpretations of data which need to be corrected.

First, it is important to understand that the Maryland functional tests are exams which all students must pass in order to graduate from high school. Until the 1993-94 school year, the mathematics, writing and reading tests have been given to ninth graders and the citizenship test to 10th graders. The state Board of Education now offers school systems the option of administering the mathematics, writing and reading tests as early as the seventh grade and Howard County has opted to do so. In order to facilitate the transition, it was necessary during the 1993-94 school year only to test all students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades.

Secondly, students have until their senior year in high school to pass the tests and may retake them as often as necessary to pass.

Third, the state Board of Education has set standards of performance related to the functional tests and these standards still apply to the percentage of students passing the tests by the ninth grade -- 10th grade for the citizenship test. There is no standard for seventh or eighth graders taking the exams.

In reviewing the pass rates for last year, testing supervisor Leslie Bartnick did call the Board of Education's attention to the seventh and eighth grade pass rates in relation to the standards that must be met by the end of ninth grade. She noted that results of the reading test show that Howard County seventh and eighth graders have already achieved the excellent standard for ninth graders with pass rates of 97.2 and 98.4 percent respectively. Our eighth grades have also met the ninth grade satisfactory standard in mathematics. She also pointed out that last year's seventh graders surpassed the performance of ninth graders from a decade ago in math, reading and writing.

In referring to the 76.3 percent seventh grade pass rate in writing, Dr. Bartnick did not refer to "underdeveloped writing skills" but instead noted that writing is more of a developmental skill than reading or mathematics and students develop more slowly as writers.

With all of this good news to report, it is very difficult to comprehend why a headline writer would focus on a slight drop in the ninth grade writing pass rate.

Patti Caplan

Ellicott City

The writer is public information officer for the Howard County Public School System.

Take Stock

As we approach the year 2000, should we stop and take stock of past development trends? These questions might be asked:

* Is Howard County following the same path on development that Prince George's County and Fairfax County did?

* Do the people in Howard County like what they see happening in these counties?

* . . . Do we really want complete buildout by 2010?

I believe that the fault lies mostly with us -- the voters of the county. Most of us give very little thought to the people we choose to represent us. We do it the easy way -- via television, newspaper editorials, names somebody has written on a slip of paper which we take into the polls with us. This has resulted in people being elected to office, the majority of whom can be easily manipulated by organizations such as the develop

Gment interests. I hope the voters in 1994 will rectify this situation.

Ridgely Jones


Bad Site to Fulfill a Vision

I thought that it would be worth my while to try and shed a little light on the issue of affordable housing in Long Reach after ,, having seen two of your drawings in the paper that were both inflammatory and misinformed.

To begin with, the actual name of the development that we are opposed to is formally known as "Streamwood." As there appears to be no stream anywhere nearby and they are knocking over the woods, I think they might have chosen a better name such as "Wild Habitat Lost." That would more accurately reflect what has gone on there over the last few years as great clusters of housing went up thereabouts in Kendall Ridge.

The meat of the matter, though, is that in regard to the issue of affordable housing we who are opposed are opposed on the grounds that the eastside villages already carry a full two-thirds of the affordable housing stock in the whole of Columbia. Being asked to make room for more means that the developers are dumping this sort of thing on us so that they can sell bigger ticket houses out west where no affordable housing is built or planned. The village center of Long Reach is in serious need of improvement. We have lost community recreational facilities to the new school construction on Dobbin Road. Nothing is being said about this sort of need here which in reality is the kind of glue that holds a community together.

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