Launching Md. reforms

The Education Beat

Conference: Not much changes. Educators vowed to make changes after hearing from colleagues, parents and students at a meeting in Baltimore.

January 13, 1999|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

THE MARYLAND State Department of Education sponsored a conference to which it invited 1,200 educators, parents, students and others to discuss "the schools we want" and "to set in motion the wheels of reform."

At the gathering in Baltimore, Dan Cheney, a student at North Hagerstown High School, advised that schools should emphasize "constructive and creative thinking rather than memorization."

Schools aren't preparing Baltimore pupils "for what business institutions and colleges are wanting," said Derek B. Steward, a student at Forest Park High School, adding that many books are outdated and some films are 10 years old.

Participants called for improved teacher-parent relations, more staff development to help teachers understand children, better evaluation of teachers' performance, a change in the way the state counts high school credits, and an extended school year with longer class periods and more audiovisual aids (including up-to-date film strips).

Parents and educators called for more "openness" in school construction, including movable walls and ceilings. Other suggestions: greater emphasis on preschool education, sensitivity programs for blacks and whites. Not much was said about reading.

Now that they had listened, the educators vowed to make changes. "This got things started," said Jerome Framptom, the state school board president.

The year was 1970.

UM president subscribes to `chicken-yard theory'

C. D. "Dan" Mote Jr., the new president of the University of Maryland, College Park, paid Sun reporters and editors a visit last week. He has a theory about the order of quality in higher education. He calls it the "chicken-yard theory."

A pecking order exists, Mote says. Just as in a chicken yard, some institutions dominate and keep the others in their place. The key is which institutions give up faculty and students to the schools higher in the order.

College Park, for example, gives up faculty and students to Mote's former employer, the University of California at Berkeley, and to Harvard, but seldom the other way around. Similarly, lesser schools surrender faculty and students to College Park. College Park's place in the chicken yard is shared by peers such as Penn State, which is just as likely to give as to receive.

What Mote finds attractive about Maryland's flagship campus is that "our relative progress is quite high." That means, he says, that College Park is gaining on schools moving at a slower rate. One of those, according to Mote, is the envied University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Statistics from Mote that are worth pondering: Sixty-four percent of College Park's alumni live in Maryland, and a large number live in the District of Columbia and Virginia. This means that "nearly three-fourths of our alumni can drive over for a cup of coffee," he said.

College Park's 150,000 Maryland alumni comprise an astonishing 3 percent of the state's 5 million population. But only 5 percent of them give to their alma mater. Mote says he plans to do something about that.

National arts foundation selects nine area youths

In Miami last week, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts was entertaining 118 young artists selected from a national pool of nearly 8,000 high school contestants.

Nine of the finalists were from the Baltimore area, including Sterling Garnell Gray, a home-schooled Randallstown musician. Six are students at Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Towson, and two are at Towson High School.

Journal gives Maryland an `A' for reform efforts

Maryland got an "A" for its school reform efforts in last week's third annual report card issued by the journal Education Week. That's up a bit from last year's "A-" and puts the state in the company of only New York and New Mexico. Only four other states have programs as comprehensive as Maryland's.

Maryland's report card wasn't all sweetness. The state again flunked the "school climate" category, dragged down by conditions in Baltimore.

Stanford study seeks people holding grudges

Here's an opportunity for those who feel they cannot forgive William Jefferson.

Stanford University researchers are looking for a few good men and women between the ages of 25 and 49 for a research study in forgiveness.

Participants need to be experiencing unresolved anger toward another person, said Frederic Luskin of the Stanford Forgiveness Project. "So many of us everywhere hold grudges, don't let go of things, get uptight about little things," he said.

Forgiveness as an area of scientific interest is new, said Luskin, who added, "I just believe it's such a valuable skill to learn."

If you're interested, contact Stephanie Evans at the Stanford School of Education: 650-400-5050, or sevans@leland.stanford.edu. Participants earn $25.

Pub Date: 1/13/99

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