City school wears a scarlet 'C' Cheating: It appears that no one outside official circles can explain why teachers at Glenmount Elementary and Middle School have been disciplined for alleged cheating in state tests.

The Education Beat

March 19, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

THE FOLKS at Baltimore's Glenmount Elementary and Middle School feel they've been tried and convicted of cheating, though they never had a trial and cannot appeal.

They have a point. They've tried to carry that point to politicians and education officials, who, citing legal restraints and security concerns, won't discuss particulars or allow anyone to inspect the fifth-grade booklets from the 1995 Maryland School Performance testing.

"They tell us we cheated, but they don't tell us what we did wrong," said one of a group of Glenmount seventh-graders who spent 90 minutes with Education Beat in a recent wide-ranging discussion of ethics and educational crime and punishment.

All the students know is that some of their teachers have been disciplined with loss of pay and that their school's scores took an eyebrow-raising drop from 1995 to 1996 -- by 60 percentage points in the case of fifth-grade math.

"We're a close group. We always have been," said another student, "so it's no wonder some of our answers were the same."

That's about as close an explanation as you can get for what might have happened, but it raises another question.

Other fifth-grade classes in Maryland are close-knit, so why aren't they wearing a collective scarlet "C?"

Meanwhile, said parent John George, "We're becoming conspiracy theorists." In a letter replying to one of the students, state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick took pains to knock down one of the theories expressed by George and several of the seventh-graders -- that the state couldn't stand the thought of a Baltimore school doing well on MSPAP and so targeted Glenmount.

"We would never accuse a school of cheating simply because it was in any particular location," Grasmick wrote. " You and your classmates are not being accused of doing anything wrong, though I know it must feel like that when allegations are made against your school."

Education Beat proposes a way to settle the matter: Ask a neutral party who knows something about testing to look at the booklets in question and determine if there was cheating.

Dennis E. Hinkle, dean of education at Towson State University, would be a logical candidate, and he has agreed to act as a judge in the Glenmount matter if he is asked to do so.

Teacher takes to Internet to make defense of Rawlings

A city elementary school teacher has taken to cyberspace to praise Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings and lobby for passage of legislation that could bring millions in additional state aid to city schools.

Jonathan Inskeep, a fourth-year teacher on unpaid leave, said he decided to establish a site on the Internet "after I heard so many people bad-mouthing Pete Rawlings," a harsh critic of city school management under Superintendent Walter G. Amprey.

"The truth is the Baltimore City school system is in terrible shape and getting worse by the day," says Inskeep's document. "Pete Rawlings is not the villain in this fiasco. He is one of the few courageous public officials who has the guts to stand up and shout, 'The Emperor has no clothes!' "

A dancing frog with a top hat is displayed on the last page of the site, along with the text, "If H.B. 312 is defeated, it will be the same old story, the same old song and dance, my friend."

Inskeep said he had never met Rawlings and hadn't been asked for help by the West Baltimore Democrat.

"The Truth About Pete Rawlings" can be found at http: //www.angelfire.com/md/ elementaryteacher In January, a report card compiled by the respected trade publication Education Week gave Maryland an A- for the equity of its school finance formula. Now comes a report from the General Accounting Office showing that while the Free State does make an above-average effort to equalize funding, it has a wider funding gap between rich and poor school districts than any other state.

Maryland education officials were at a loss to explain the fall from grace in less than two months. The GAO attributed the gap to the tax effort of Maryland's richest districts, which it said spend 53 percent more than the poorest districts, the highest such ratio in the nation.

One caution, though. Like most government reports, this one is old, covering the 1991-1992 year, so it might be inaccurate.

Harvard, Hopkins costs could cause sticker shock

Harvard and Johns Hopkins last week both announced tuition increases for next year, and both patted themselves on the back for moderation.

Hopkins' "benchmark tuition" -- the sticker price -- goes up 4.6 percent to $21,700. Harvard's total charges increase 4.1 percent to $30,080. Both are the lowest increases in years, reflecting a trend among elite colleges.

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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