her view of reading tests t two schools Suggestion: Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the Abell Foundation, sees the comparison of scores at two city elementaries as being 'not particularly fair.'


November 29, 1998|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF


On Oct. 11, we expressed disappointment that spring test scores were about equally dismal at two city elementary schools tracked through the 1997-1998 school year by Sun reporters. Surely, we had thought, City Springs Elementary, with its proven Direct Instruction program, would have outpaced Lyndhurst Elementary, with an unstructured approach to reading instruction.

Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the Abell Foundation and former president of the city and state school boards, suggests that might be what is happening.

" The comparison between City Springs and Lyndhurst is not particularly fair," Embry writes. "At City Springs, 90 percent of the children are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch compared to 60 percent at Lyndhurst. In spite of this disparity, the reading scores at City Springs for grades 1 through 5 were slightly higher than at Lyndhurst. Quite an achievement.

"Furthermore, City Springs has 33 percent more student mobility and 44 percent more special education students than Lyndhurst. The news story could have been written with a very different slant.

"In fact, Robert Coleman, Hampstead Hill and Arundel -- all DI schools, and all with a higher percentage of poor children than Lyndhurst -- all scored higher than Lyndhurst in reading (40 percent, 36.6 percent, 33.1 percent) compared to Lyndhurst's 29.1 percent "For some reason, The Sun compared one of the poorest schools in the system with Lyndhurst, which is in the wealthiest quartile. It would have been equally misleading to compare Lyndhurst to Roland Park, a DI school, whose reading score was 51 percent, because Roland Park has a poor population of only 35 percent."

Embry reminds us again that school achievement is tied so closely to family wealth that exceptions are few.

(It should be noted that Embry's foundation subsidizes Direct Instruction, but he declines to endorse any reading method.)

Male elementary teachers are much in demand in city

This e-mail comes from reader Bobby Gear:

"On the Reading by 9 page of Nov. 1 there was a short squib about the lack of all-male classes at Matthew Henson Elementary, where there had been several such classes three years ago

"As a female teacher of 32 years' experience who had been quite impressed by what I had read about those classes, I am forced to ask: What happened to those men from three years ago? Where did they go? What are they doing now? What happened to their enthusiasm?"

Henson Principal Mabel Green tells us that the teachers are still in the system and enthusiastic, but demand for male elementary teachers -- particularly black male elementary teachers -- is such that they can write their own tickets.

Statistics supplied by Min Cai at the state Department of Education substantiate Green's observation. Of 2,919 elementary teachers in the city last year, 181 were black males, while 1,531 were black women. If the African-American men were spread evenly, one would teach in each school, but that isn't how it works, of course.

Education has always been a woman's profession, a phenomenon dating to the days when mostly women entered "helping" careers such as teaching and nursing and when only those careers were open to African-Americans. Only 2,475 of Maryland's 23,000 elementary teachers last year were men, and only 536 of these were black.

Carroll County had one black male elementary teacher last year -- of 658 teachers. Seventeen of Howard's 1,186 grade-school teachers were black males, and four of Harford's 969. No African-Americans of either gender teach in Garrett County, the state's westernmost jurisdiction, which also has virtually no full-time black residents.

Memo to bright African-Americans who want to make a difference: Consider teaching. A job is waiting for you.

One reader's key to reading: learn those vowel sounds

Finally, this note from reader Helen Hood:

"Why is it those who went to school in years past could read? Maybe they had parents to tutor them. I could read at 3. The most important thing a beginner can start with is the alphabet, then AEIOU, the vowel sounds. Every child in the first grade should be given a dictionary, to show how those letters change in sound with different words. That is the start; then a gradual buildup of knowledge.

"I was a tutor in the grade-school system, and they really want to read. It empowers them, makes them feel proud. But they need the right tools. AEIOU.

"God Bless."

Memo to Helen:

And sometimes Y.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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