State is hiding the truth about MSPAP's failings, MSPAP...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 20, 2001

State is hiding the truth about MSPAP's failings, MSPAP is a fraud perpetrated by State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and her cohorts in the Maryland State Department of Education. This fraud is abetted by a gullible press that accepts the excuse of "test security" to prevent the public from viewing the tests and an outside critique of MSPAP.

Ms. Grasmick claims, "Good MSPAP scores increasingly represent better teaching and better leadership" ("Making sure MSPAP passes the test," Opinion*Commentary," Jan. 12).

Yet the generation of students who have received the full MSPAP education are arriving in my classroom with fewer skills, less knowledge of content, lower reading abilities and less ability to logically analyze issues.

If MSPAP did all it was purported to do, these students should outperform their pre-MSPAP peers. They don't.

Bill Evers of Stanford University has documented the flaws in MSPAP, but Ms. Grasmick refuses to release the study ("MSPAP failings," Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 3). Two hundred binders of questions are also classified as secret.

There can be only one real reason for not releasing the tests and the Evers report -- the public would be shocked and outraged to find out what MSPAP really is.

The tragedy of this is that if a responsible press would demand the release of all information about MSPAP, the public could be fully informed and education decisions could be based on fact.

Martin D. Peters Jr., Baltimore

The writer is a teacher at Overlea High School.

Kinder, gentler state seal retains racist elements

I was heartened to see that Maryland has finally toned down the sexist motto on its official state seal ("No longer manly, state seal uses gentle words," Jan. 12).

But it is a travesty that the image of a tobacco leaf was retained. Its inclusion can be construed as an implicit endorsement of tobacco use -- and it has an embarrassingly Southern connotation.

Even worse, it is blatantly racist because it is a tribute to the crop on which this state was founded through the exploitation of the African-Americans enslaved and forcibly brought here to harvest it.

A. Williams-Jones, Millersville

Surgeon general was right to address mental illness

I did not find the surgeon general's report on kids and mental illness irrational ("Don't tell so many kids that they're mentally ill," letters, Jan. 13). Actually, I would like to commend Dr. David Satcher for having the courage to bring this very serious issue to the forefront.

Does it really matter if one out of 10 kids or one out of 20 is mentally ill? The bottom line is that our young people are having great difficulty adjusting to today's pressures.

And, if they are not helped, the result can be tragic. Every one hour and 53 minutes we lose another person under the age of 24 to suicide; that's a Columbine High School massacre every day.

Mental illness and suicide can and do go hand in hand.

Lisa Hurka Covington, Baltimore

Did Will's column explain Bill Clinton's shortcomings ...

Congratulations for publishing George Will's column "The legacies of a president" (Opinion*Commentary, Jan. 12), in which he characterized President Clinton as an "inconsequential president, who inherited a rising economy."

I hope thinking Democrats read this column and understand how at least half of this republic feels about Mr. Clinton and his shortcomings.

Perhaps then they might even lean toward supporting a duly elected centrist, George W. Bush, and his highly capable, experienced staff.

Thomas K. Ward, Timonium

... or was it just an insult to the departing president?

It's way past the time that The Sun should have buried George F. Will. He fascinates only himself and contributes nothing.

His passe thinking and insults abuse the freedom of the press.

Antonio Diaz, Baltimore

Ashcroft's far-right views would cause greater conflict

How can we expect impartial enforcement of our nation's laws from Attorney General-nominee John Ashcroft when Mr. Ashcroft fought so vigorously and spoke so clearly against some of these laws?

Mr. Ashcroft's far-right views are not in the mainstream. I believe they will create an even more confrontational environment in Washington.

The election made clear that, as a nation, we are evenly split concerning conservative vs. liberal views. This leads me to believe that moderates of both parties must be in leadership positions.

In this context, Mr. Ashcroft must not be confirmed as attorney general.

George Carlson, Catonsville

Nominating Norton betrays GOP's conservation tradition

The strength of President-elect George W. Bush's team, from Vice President-elect Dick Cheney's poise to Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft's conviction and probity bodes well for the nation. His appointment of Gale Norton as secretary of the interior is a sad and potentially damaging exception.

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