Serious questions compromise new language program I was...

LETTERS

March 04, 2001

Serious questions compromise new language program

I was disappointed in both The Sun's editorial "Give reading a boost" (Feb. 17) and Stephanie Desmon's article "Devoting bigger block to the language arts" (Feb. 18) regarding the middle school reading initiative in the Anne Arundel County schools.

Both articles reflected a lack of research that I'm surprised to find in a newspaper of The Sun's caliber.

Since this reading initiative was brought to public attention last month, a large grassroots movement of dissent has arisen across Anne Arundel County.

This group values literacy as much as the school board and school administration. However, they object to implementing drastic curricular changes that remove opportunities in art, music, physical education, foreign language, and other electives, while leaving unanswered a vast number of questions regarding the plan's rationale, efficacy and practicality.

Questions The Sun should have asked before reporting or commenting on this issue include:

Why hasn't there been a thorough investigation into the causes of the county's low reading scores?

Why does the belief persist that Anne Arundel County is well below the state average for reading scores, when our scores are generally within two points of the state's average scores?

Why do some schools cited as models for the program attribute their success to factors other than increased time in reading class?

How can a new curriculum for an additional reading class and revised curricula for all core subjects be implemented by next August?

Where will the 42 additional reading teachers come from, with no money budgeted for them?

What efforts have been made to determine the impact of limiting elective opportunities on children's well-being and their long-term academic success and reading scores?

How will Anne Arundel County students fare on the arts tests that the State Department of Education plans to require for high school graduation?

By limiting opportunities for physical education, is the school administration ignoring national public health concerns about obesity and inactivity?

If The Sun investigates these and many other questions regarding the reading plan, I'm confident it will conclude what thousands of Anne Arundel County citizens already have concluded: The administration and school board must conduct a careful and open study of the reading ability of county children -- and of alternative ways to enhance it -- before enacting such drastic and potentially destructive change.

Anne Overstreet

Severna Park

Reading plan punishes students who excel

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education has made another knee-jerk decision -- this time one that affects the entire middle school population.

The board voted 7-1 in favor of punishing achieving students -- by taking away an elective and forcing them to spend twice as much time on reading-language arts ("Plan OK'd to add 6th-grade reading," Feb. 22). What a way to reward students who achieve.

Some students indeed need additional concentration in reading and language. We owe them the necessary remedial attention.

But if this year the focus is on reading-language arts, what will be the subject du jour next year: mathematics? science?

I bet social studies teachers feel nervous. History, state capitals and federal and local government-related questions seldom come up in job interviews, so waste time teaching those subjects?

Dumping social studies would leave more room for reading or mathematics or science.

Children are individuals. A good portion of them wear glasses. Do we make the entire student body wear glasses to safeguard those who truly need them from being called "four eyes"?

That sounds ridiculous, I know, but, no more ridiculous than rewarding students who meet the standards (in this case for reading-language arts) by denying them the opportunity to explore and develop their individuality. Let's break the students into groups based on their capability and then apply specific, focused teaching techniques designed for each group. Keep all students equally busy, but at rates at which they can each succeed.

The answer is not one size fits all. The answer is embracing the reality of our children's aptitudes and working with their uniqueness, not only at home but also in our community.

Until the board of education begins to acknowledge this concept, I'm keeping my child out of the Anne Arundel public schools.

Christopher J. Skowronski

Odenton

Governor must block dredge spoil island

I write as a third-generation, life-long resident of a water-privileged community in Bar Harbour who is concerned about the possibility of a dredge spoil island being located off the Pasadena shoreline.

I think Gov. Parris N. Glendening has turned his back to the concerns of the citizens who live in these communities by not having Site 170 removed from the list of possible dredge spoil sites ("Dredge spoil bills backed by council," Feb. 21).

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