Substitute teacher's view on special-ed crisis Line by...

Letters

May 20, 2001

Substitute teacher's view on special-ed crisis

Line by line, I read the article "Md. schools face crisis over special education," (May 14) by Mike Bowler and Carl Schoettler, expecting to see reported what I have experienced as a substitute teacher. Alas, though the article is well-written and thought-provoking, it missed a crucial point.

I can't speak for the entire state, but my experience in Anne Arundel County may help, in part, explain why it's so hard to find people willing to take on a special-ed class.

Classes listed as Special Ed are not always filled with students with learning disabilities only. A portion of the class (sometimes a large portion) is made up of students with a history of trouble-making. Once at Glen Burnie High, I was approached just prior to the start of a class by another teacher concerned for my safety.

"Are you in here by yourself?"

"Yes," I answered. "Why?"

"You don't know what you're in for."

The class was a special-ed class comprised of a few students with learning difficulties and a lot of students with behavioral problems. I am grateful to Glen Burnie for sending another teacher to join me for that period. By the end of that class I was contemplating never subbing again. It was not an isolated occurrence.

I have also agreed to sub for schools in a given subject only to arrive and find that either I've been moved to another class (sometimes Special Ed) or that the information on the county's system was wrong in the first place.

Does any of this encourage anyone to fill the needs listed in The Sun's article?

Calvin Carter

Arnold

Sun view ill-informed about reading classes

Your recent editorial concerning Anne Arundel County middle school education entitled "Argument for reading time" (May 8) was both ill-informed and misleading. It was an unfair slam at those of us who are trying to ensure a continuing quality education for our children. ...

The shortcomings of Alicia Pettit's educational experiences [cited in the editorial] are not shared by all middle school children, especially the ones who are listening and paying attention in school. Comma placement is taught in the third grade, and reviewed and expanded in succeeding grades. My own seventh-grader is becoming proficient not only in comma placement, but in much more advanced writing conventions and grammar. The last sentence of your editorial was ridiculous in that it implies that children have not been taught important grammar skills. The tone of the editorial gives the impression that those of us who are supporting foreign language, art, music, technological education and family and consumer sciences are against reading and do not want literate graduates! This is blatantly unfair and not true. ...

The school board's solution to the problem of the flat MSPAP scores in our county does not take into account the students who are learning and paying attention in school, most of whom are in the higher-level groups in Language Arts. Many of them are there, not so much because they are smarter or more highly gifted than everyone else, but because they have a good work ethic and apply themselves to their studies. Why not leave the middle school program as it stands now with two hours of time for the electives for those students and increase time for Language Arts for the students who have not learned where to put commas and other important skills?... [The] skills that Alicia Pettit refers to in your newspaper are already being taught. Perhaps Ms. Pettit and the school board members are not as close to instructional problems as you have stated. Perhaps the Baltimore Sun is even further removed from the problems and has no business interfering! Perhaps we parents are the ones who are ultimately responsible for ensuring that our children are prepared! Your editorial actually boils down to asserting that because Alicia Pettit and her classmates do not yet know about comma placement, no middle school child does. To solve this "problem," you are therefore telling us that we need to cut access to art, music, foreign languages, technological education, and family and consumer sciences. Instead of such a destructive action, why not get rid of the problem that you have admitted in your own editorial, which is to be found in Ms. Pettit's quote? She "was taught to write with computer-assisted spelling and grammar checks, sometimes without grasping all the basics." Can you not see how unfair it is to sacrifice the electives rather than disallowing computers when the students are learning to write? Where is the logic in this?

Dawn Eggen Mona

Severna Park

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