Teachers union seeks healthy conditions for teaching and...

September 06, 1999

Teachers union seeks healthy conditions for teaching and learning

The Sun's editorial "Union must recognize school system's needs" (Aug. 26) criticizes Baltimore teachers for the current impasse in contract negotiations with the city schools.

Baltimore teachers are acutely aware of the needs in our schools. They know that good teachers are essential to good schools and that Baltimore City schools are struggling to attract and retain highly qualified teachers.

How does the new Board of School Commissioners expect to get and keep good teachers by offering them extra duties, lower pay than surrounding districts and higher out-of-pocket costs for basic health benefits?

Our goal in the current negotiations is to create good conditions for teaching and learning in Baltimore schools.

Our proposals would enhance teachers' skills, ensure they are treated as professionals and make Baltimore schools competitive with other school districts.

The Sun supports the administration's desire to require teachers to "volunteer" their time and not be compensated for required professional development.

We support high-quality professional development programs. And we believe good professional development is integral to our day-to-day work, not an add-on.

As in other area school systems, it should be part of the school day -- not "forced charity" on the part of teachers.

Many former and prospective Baltimore City teachers have been lured to surrounding school systems, where conditions are more "teacher friendly." Yet many student achievement indicators have gone up in Baltimore schools.

Much work remains, and the Baltimore Teachers Union will stand firm for proposals that will continue -- not undermine -- this progress.

Marietta English, Baltimore

The writer is president of the teacher chapter of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

City's test scores show little progress for schools

Looking over city schools' latest results from the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills ("Gains slight in city reading tests," Aug. 25), I noticed several things.

Very few schools are at or above the national average (scoring more than 50 in math or reading).

The scores are awful -- the average change for all Baltimore elementary schools was plus 1.78 percent in reading. For math scores, we had an average decline of 2.87 percent.

Despite the dramatic improvement the article noted at Thomas Johnson Elementary School, many schools continue to be below the national average. Many showed a decline in scores for one or more grades or subjects.

For example, Hazelwood Elementary's reading scores for 5th grade declined 27 percent, and Sharp-Ledenhall's 5th grade math scores declined 44 percent.

It is good to mention that improvements have occurred at some city schools, but much work remains for all of us.

When I taught in the city schools, I was constantly amazed on parents' nights to see only 10 percent of parents show up -- and invariably those were the parents of the gifted or motivated students.

Please get involved -- volunteer, mentor, participate in PTA meetings, do whatever it takes -- and don't give up the fight to improve Baltimore's schools.

Our future depends on it.

C. T. Johnson, Baltimore

Same-sex education lets kids just be themselves

If my own 17 years of middle and high school teaching had not shown me differently, I would agree with Linda Chavez' assertion that exclusively female classes do not belong in today's world ("Separate but equal schooling for men," Opinion Commentary, Aug. 20).

As it is, I'm not sure that the same standards for all people, all the time, always provides the best opportunity for growth.

From 1988 to 1997 I taught at the girls-only Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. I found its girls consistently more focused, more curious, more willing to speak out and take on responsibilities outside the classroom than girls I had taught previously (and since) in co-ed schools.

However, when placed in co-ed situations, these girls would clam up, become more passive and yield the floor to boys.

In co-ed situations, girls spend most of their time being conscious that they are girls, while in single-sex situations they are more free to just be themselves.

I further suspect that, just as girls act more naturally when the pressure of the opposite sex is removed, so do boys.

Bill Nelson, Dagsboro, Del.

County's waterfront tired of being `dumped on'

May I point out an oversight in the letter from George O'Donnell and the Queen Anne's County commissioners, "A needed step back on dredge dumping" (Aug. 25)?

In Mr. O'Donnell's elation over successfully delaying the Maryland Port Administration's plans for open-bay dumping of dredge spoils, he graciously thanked many people.

But Mr. O'Donnell forgot to thank Baltimore County, which may just be his greatest ally.

If not for the growing mountain of dredge spoils called Hart-Miller Island off Baltimore County, Mr. O'Donnell and his cohorts would have had this dredge spoil challenge to deal with long ago.

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