Board members, parents talk about school system

Issues discussed include crowding, redistricting, enrollment policies, tests

November 18, 1999|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

About a dozen parents and four of the five Howard County school board members talked about the schools last night during Coffee and Conversation at Gorman Crossing Elementary School in North Laurel.

Parents brought up such issues as the system's open enrollment policy, crowding in classrooms, focus schools, redistricting and disparities in test scores between schools.

Question on test scores

If the school system has a uniform curriculum that all teachers are supposed to follow, and all schools are deemed equally staffed, why is there such a wide range of scores on standardized tests, asked Greg Videll, father of two Gorman Crossing pupils.

Board member Jane B. Schuchardt said test scores don't always paint an accurate picture of what a school has accomplished in a given academic year with its particular population of students.

"Where did that child start and where does that child end up?" Schuchardt said. "That's far more important than test scores. You cannot base a school's performance on the average of the test scores in the school. That tells you nothing about what kind of good teaching is going on."

Parent Gina Wilson complained that test scores get printed in newspapers and reported on television.

As a result, she said, schools with lower scores are less desirable to newcomers than one with higher scores.

Cindy Bresson, whose children attend Laurel Woods Elementary School, agreed.

Laurel Woods is a focus school, which gets extra resources because of low test scores.

Bresson said new residents in her neighborhood learn about the test scores and either take advantage of the open enrollment policy and send their children to Gorman Crossing or enroll them in a private school.

"They haven't even set foot in our school to even give it a chance," Bresson said.

Heidi Videll, who took her children out of Laurel Woods and sent them to Gorman Crossing, suggested that the board consider socioeconomic status when drawing district boundary lines so that all schools have students from all economic levels.

Videll said that it is widely known that teachers in schools with high concentrations of low-income students don't expect as much from those students, adversely affecting test scores.

Redistricting a solution?

Redistricting based on income might even that out, she said.

Board Chairwoman Karen B. Campbell said that such a move might not be legal.

And redistricting for any reason causes disruption and anger, she added.

Board members assured parents that their concerns are being considered, or will be soon, including Gorman Crossing PTA President Karen Harvie's question about the shrinking recess period in elementary schools.

"It all goes back to needing more time in the day," board member Sandra H. French said.

She pointed out that more academic subjects are being covered in classrooms today than in the past.

"You can't keep cramming more stuff and still keep [the school day] to 6 1/2 hours," French said.

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