Can private concerns do for schools what the state has...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 15, 2000

Can private concerns do for schools what the state has not?

The Sun's editorial on the privatization of three low-performing city elementary schools does not address the fundamental question: What can a private faculty and management at the schools do that public faculty and management cannot? (Talking it over Baltimore schools," Feb. 3 ).

And if we examine the sentence, "Privatizlng thc worst ones [ schools ] is a good idea, but results will depend on state vigilance," is The Sun not saying that schools' success depends on the vigilance of those who, when the schools were under their direct control, were not vigilant?

" We seem to be announcing a solution, without answering the question: Why are the children at the three elementary schools in question performing so poorly?

Unless we have a clear idea of the causes of poor performance, we can't predict the effect of privatizing the schools.

Moreover, if we act on the dubious premise that doing something is better than doing nothing, we may spend valuable time and resources, with no benefit.

Thomas McCarthy Sr., Annapolis

The State Board of Education should formally take over the schools that it already indirectly controls. But why do we need to waste tax dollars hiring a private company to run these schools?

No one knows better than state schools' Superintendent Nancy S.Grasmick exactly what school reform means.

Ms. Grasmick, or a state designee, could serve as principal of Montebello Elementary, for example, and model how reforms should be implemented.

Those designing and implementing the schools' testing and goals should surely be capable of meeting them -- without donat-ing tax dollars to private companies.

Martin D. Peters Jr., Baltimore

The writer is a teacher at Overlea High School.

It's not just schools that are failing

In response to the editorial "Taking over Baltimore schools" (Feb. 3) I disagee that, "It's not the children who are failing; it's everyone else."

Having taught for nearly 30 years, I find it obvious that in Ihe Anne Arundel County schools (and likely elsewhere) students are indeed "failing," too.

Many students are failing to accept that education requires effort and diligence, that attending classes is absolutely necessary and that doing only the minimum required will not prepare them for future employment.

Education is not a top-down process; the'bottom" must reach up continuously. Administrators and teachers can only do so much to motivate kids and provide opportunities. Students and parents must assume some responsibility, too.

Thousands of Maryland students, who excel in academic work, have achieved because they've accepted that responsibility and developed self-reliance.

It is time for students to realize that schools provide tools and paths for success, They, in turn, actually have to ag something with them.

David J. Chester, Glen Burnie

The writer is a teachcr at Old Mill High School.

City schools' failures have been no accident

In The Sun's article "Maryland assumes control of three Baltimore schools," Feb. 2) state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick laments thc unequal opportunities available to the 1,500 students at three failing city elementary schools because of the accident of where they reside.

Let's talk about what is an accident and what is not. Baltimore City was not accidentally abandoned.

It is not an accident that for many years business and sports investments have had a higher priority than education investment. The resulting deprivation, with its high correlation of education fail-ure, is not a statistical accident.

It is not an accident that hundreds of Baltimore's teachers with altruistic inten-tions chose to teach under conditions wilere the odds were against their success.

It is not an accident that we have al-ready lost approximately 240 new teachers from this year's starting workforce.

And finally, it is not an accident that the intrinsic joy of teaching and learning, have been subverted by dangling money in ~ront of administrators and MSPAP-ing the basic skills out ora normal education.

Ms. Grasmick can have the darn schools. Good luck -- and don't forget to tell us your test scores after five months.

Walter Marse, Kingsville

The writer is a teacher in the Baltimore City public schools.

Even if texts are secular, they can be put to other uses

As a member of my local PTA, I am proud to see the Maryland PTA speak out against Gov. Parris N. Glcndening's proposal to allocate $6 million in public fund-ingto non-public schools.

The PTA rightly points out that only public schools are available to all children; accountable to the public; and allow input through a public hearing process.

I would also point out that assurances that these funds will not go for religious texts do not go far enough in safeguarding the separation of church and state. Such naive assurances ignore that religious doctrine often permeates thc entire experience in a parochial school, impacting the way all subjects are taught.

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