Paperless final exams

The Education Beat

Online: English students at McDonogh School trade in their blue books for computer keyboards.

April 19, 2000|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE COURSES on the Internet. Final exams online. Every day, it seems, there's a new development, and the high-tech binge is no longer restricted to higher education.

Laddie Levy, for example, is the first McDonogh School teacher to experiment with online examinations. Levy, an English teacher, posted an exam on the northwest Baltimore County independent school's e-mail system. Seventeen of 34 students volunteered to take the exam online.

"My thinking was that these kids no longer use the keyboard to type. They use it to compose, so if they do papers and e-mail on the computer, why not exams?"

The essays written by computer were longer and better-structured than those composed by pen in the traditional blue book, Levy said. "Plus, I didn't mind that it was easier to read them."

Levy cautioned that there are problems to be worked out with online testing. One of them is security. Another is that those taking tests on computers tend to do better than those taking the same test on paper -- 37 percent better in one study reported this month by the National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy.

Look for more online courses for high school students. The Southern Regional Education Board reported last week that interest in the Web as a conduit for math and science courses "increased significantly in the past year" throughout the 17 Southern and border states.

City College curriculum changes with the times

In this space a month ago, I described the 1869 curriculum at Baltimore's City College, the nation's third-oldest public high school. It was laden with Latin, German and Greek, mixed with history, mathematics and a dash of vocational training (for male clerks). Sophomores, for example, had this weekly schedule: five hours Latin, four hours German, five hours geometry, one hour astronomy, two hours bookkeeping, three hours physiology, two hours history and two hours rhetoric.

Pretty impressive, I thought as I copied the schedule from "A History of Education in Maryland," published in 1894. But City's 2000 principal, Joseph Wilson, and veteran teacher Louise Jira did some comparative analysis, and I now see the modern City in a different light.

Jira points out that the focus of City's curriculum has shifted since the 19th century, when students devoted a fourth of their high school studies to classical languages -- Latin and Greek -- and an eighth of their time to French and German.

Today's City, one of only 200 high schools in the nation with the college-prep International Baccalaureate program, requires one year of Latin and four years of a modern foreign language, including Spanish, the dominant foreign tongue in the America of 2000 but beneath the dignity of 1869 scholars.

International Baccalaureate students devote appreciably more time to history, science and mathematics than did their early counterparts, according to Jira. They also spend more time in school -- 892 more hours during the four high school years.

And according to Wilson, only 15 percent of the Class of 1869 at City graduated. In the past five years, City has graduated an average of 98 percent of its seniors. And those graduates are of both genders, which was not the case in 1869.

"So what's my conclusion about the differences?" says Jira. "City College prepared young men for college and careers in 1869 by stressing their need for a classical education. International Baccalaureate students are receiving a more rounded education than was offered in 1869, and their education today provides the greater depth and breadth required for entry into competitive colleges and professional career paths."

A half-century of excellence for Johns Hopkins Magazine

One of the nation's best alumni magazines, Johns Hopkins Magazine, turns 50 this month. Founded with $100 of his own savings by Corbin Gwaltney, the magazine has demonstrated for half a century that alumni publications don't have to be shills for the schools they represent.

The Johns Hopkins Magazine has covered campus affairs in the same way a newspaper would cover a "beat" -- without fear or favor, and on many occasions ticking off presidents, faculty, parents and alumni. Too many alumni magazines remain propaganda outlets for marketers.

The magazine has won nine Robert Sibley Magazine of the Year awards, more than any other college or university magazine in the nation.

Roland Park Country School begins $10 million expansion

Roland Park Country School broke ground on an academic wing late last month, at the same time that it launched a $10 million campaign to pay for expansion.

Plans include a science wing, improved space for technology, an expanded middle school, additional upper school classrooms, a lecture hall and a relocated lower school library.

Officials hope to finish construction by fall 2001, the North Baltimore independent school's centennial.

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