For kids' sake, stop the madness of standardized testsThis...

Letters to the Editor

May 04, 1998

For kids' sake, stop the madness of standardized tests

This month, Baltimore elementary schools will be an unhealthy and detrimental place for children. As a fifth-grade teacher, I've seen it coming for some time now, but I can't or won't do anything about it. I love being in my classroom and by refusing to participate, I risk losing that love. So I go along, not my proudest moment.

Starting today, fifth-graders, 10-year-old children, will be taking the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test.

While MSPAP evaluates critical and creative thinking, it is a very difficult test that's physically and mentally draining. It involves almost constant writing for 105 minutes each day. All year, Baltimore students have felt the pressure to perform on MSPAP -- from their teachers and principals. At week's end, you can actually see the relief from these children. They have survived.

But it's not over for these kids. Robert Schiller, interim superintendent of Baltimore schools, and the city's new Board of School Commissioners decided that even more testing is necessary. Starting May 18, all elementary students will endure yet another week of testing, the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. Fifth-graders will at least have a one-week break.

Because of scheduling, third-graders, children who are just 8 years old, will have 10 straight school days of testing.

There is value in assessment, but this is madness. What can we really expect to learn from these tests: How many children we can burn out in a short period of time? Why are we treating kids like this?

Peter French


New approach to education a welcome retreat from past

I read with interest your April 28 editorial "Much ado signifying little."

Far from what your headline implies, the U.S. Senate's passage of a bill empowering parents to choose how and where to spend a small portion of their education dollars represents a substantial departure from the traditional way government has viewed its role in education.

In the past (and judging from the just-completed session in Annapolis, still true in Maryland), large expenditures on infrastructure were equated with "support for education." But parents who would like to send their children to nonpublic schools do not view the public schools as primarily lacking in "infrastructure."

Most realize that education is not the school building itself, but the curriculum, teachers, discipline and safety -- and find these lacking.

Finally, although I agree that Head Start and other early childhood programs are important, they can't hold a candle to the importance of parental guidance and teaching in those formative years.

Public policy should enthusiastically support parents who choose to stay home and raise their children.

I welcome this new approach by the government. The old approach has failed.

Andrew P. Harris


Hold officials accountable for Wyndham, shape of city

The issue of the Wyndham hotel and financing it with tens of millions of dollars of public money has brought to the forefront questions about the representation of the people of Baltimore by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the City Council.

Virtually every group in the city opposes the Wyndham hotel, from citizens' organizations to business and tourism officials as well as The Sun.

All are correct.

The mayor and City Council do not represent the people of this city. The Baltimore schools are among the very worst in the nation. The Baltimore housing department is a disaster. Housing Commissioner Daniel Henson should have been fired years ago. The schools and housing in this city should make every resident angry at Mr. Schmoke and the City Council.

Faced with these severe problems, as well as a very high murder rate in Baltimore, Mr. Schmoke and the City Council fund the Wyndham hotel with tax money that will amount to between $50 million and $95 million over 25 years.

Only four council members voted against public funding of the Wyndham. They are John Cain, Nicholas D'Adamo, Lois Garey and Stephanie Rawlings.

It is time that the residents of this city hold their elected officials accountable.

Deborah Hollander


Insurer's plan for garage puts good name in jeopardy

Maryland Casualty, now Zurich, has its "good neighbor" reputation at stake.

When Greater Homewood was established, Maryland Casualty was a major early contributor, along with the Johns Hopkins University and Union Memorial Hospital.

When its Hunt Valley employees moved back to the city, Maryland Casualty expanded its parking in a planning process with the neighbors.

What Zurich needs to recall is what Maryland Casualty knew then: A workplace is only as secure and attractive as its neighborhood. In this case, the rowhouse perimeter of Hampden and Wyman Park is neat, with gardens and flags and a two-story scale that any large garage will dwarf, shadow and diminish.

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