Balto. Co. schools are working to better students...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 17, 2000

Balto. Co. schools are working to better students' achievement

As a leader in the Baltimore County public schools, I take great exception both to the tone and the content of The Sun's incredibly negative editorial "How to close the achievement gap" (Feb. 2).

The Sun correctly pointed out that Baltimore County has a long way to go in closing the achievement gap. However, it ignored the county's progress, which the paper itself has previously recognized ("Baltimore County narrows reading gap of black, white pupils," Aug. 19, 1999).

From the first day of his superintendency, Dr. Anthony Marchione has focused on what research has shown is essential to increase achievement over the long-term for all students: well-trained teachers, clear curricula, regular monitoring of student progress and quality leadership.

Far from being "languid" and "lacking urgency" (as the editorial alleged), the system's central office personnel are focused, determine and responsive. Baltimore County is fortunate to have a hard-working leadership team dedicated to increasing the achievement of all students.

This focus is paying off in improved performance, school-by-school, classroom-by-classroom.

I am sure The Sun shares with all Baltimore County citizens the goal of attracting the best possible new superintendent and retaining dedicated central staff and principals. But The Sun did a disservice by not presenting a more balanced picture of the system's progress and needs.

Ultimately, the children of Baltimore County will suffer from this emphasis, as quality, hard-working administrators and teachers choose to work where they are better recognized and appreciated.

Ronald S. Thomas

Timonium

The writer is assistant to the superintendent for educational accountability in the Baltimore County public schools.

I appreciate The Sun's efforts to focus the community on improving minority students' achievement ("How to close the achievement gap," editorial, Feb. 2).

As educators in Baltimore County, we identified this as a critical issue some time ago, and since 1988 have worked very specifically to isolate root causes and close the achievement gap.

We have made progress, but clearly not enough. Our mission is to provide a quality education for all children and for the last four years I have stated in many settings that improving minority achievement is the highest priority.

We share The Sun's concern and sense of urgency and have intensified our efforts to meet this challenge.

I welcome The Sun as a partner in our efforts. I invite it to examine the data which charts the progress we have made, to review the most recent programs and initiatives we have put in place and to work with the committed and hard-working professionals in the school system.

Anthony G. Marchione

Towson

The writer is superintendent of the Baltimore County public schools.

Responding to The Sun's editorial "How to close the achievement gap" (Feb. 2), I'd note that Shady Spring elementary is overcrowded, our population is mobile and our addition is not completed.

These "impediments" are beyond our control. What we can and do control is the atmosphere within our school.

Our faculty and staff have worked within and across grade levels, sharing ideas, materials, and strategies with new and the veteran teachers. Our librarian is working within budget constraints to purchase age appropriate materials to support our instructional program.

Classroom teachers have spent their personal funds compiling classroom libraries that include poetry, biography, science and history.

Here at Shady Spring, you will find a dedicated faculty, who are working very hard to provide our students the skills they need to be successful.

Louise Gaston

Rosedale

The writer teaches third grade at Shady Spring Elementary School.

Solving `achievement gap' won't cure what ails schools

The Sun's Agenda 2000 editorial "How to close the achievement gap" (Feb. 2) argued that improving minority students' achievement must become the Baltimore County school system's top priority.

This conclusion was based on 1999 MSPAP results that show the percentage of black students doing satisfactory work is about half that of white students.

It's important to close this gap, but the number of all students performing satisfactorily is more important. The test results show that about 40-to-45 percent of the white students are now failing.

Thus, even if the gap were closed tomorrow, 40-to-45 percent of black students still would be failing.

This is not an acceptable goal.

I suggest that the system's top priority should be to improve the achievement of every student in Baltimore County.

Herman Blinchikoff

Pikesville

Kids' backgrounds are a barrier to achievement

Alas, another pundit gives an analysis, without getting close to the crux of the problem regarding ("How to close the achievement gap," Feb. 2).

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