Federal standards only enhance efforts to improve...


January 09, 2002

Federal standards only enhance efforts to improve education

With a tone that can be charitably called unrealistic, The Sun's editorial "New rules for schools can't kill local reforms" (Jan. 1) first congratulates Maryland on its educational accountability system (MSPAP), then makes a huge leap to suggest that, given the existence of MSPAP, national accountability and reform efforts need not apply to Maryland, and that these measures "represent a glaring and costly interference."

The various programs that make up President Bush's landmark legislation constitute the most sweeping federal education initiatives since 1965 and will bring up to an additional $26 billion to states' education coffers. Yet The Sun seeks to highlight the not terribly insightful point that Maryland's situation is not the same as those of other states.

Indeed, no state's education landscape is identical to any other -- as America's history of state and local control of education has ensured -- but this only argues all the more for just the type of increased "quality control" called for by federal authorities. And if Maryland is indeed way ahead of the game, all the better for Maryland and its students.

One last thought, though: As we are now into 2002, and our schools, teachers, students and parents still do not know the results of our May 2001 MSPAP tests -- or even whether the entire state's results will be invalidated completely, as some have suggested -- even the cheerleaders at The Sun should at least leave open the possibility that there's still plenty of room for improvement right here at home.

Christopher J. Doherty


The writer is director of President Bush's Reading First initiative.

After decades of inaction, the president and Congress enacted landmark bipartisan legislation to address the education crisis through national performance requirements and significant new funding.

Given the tenor of Sun editorials, one might expect its editorial writers to commend long overdue federal action and accompanying largesse. But no, this federal initiative is not a rising tide to lift all boats but a torpedo aimed at Maryland schools.

Maryland's commitment to reform is indeed commendable, but its current efforts are very much an experiment, their mechanics much debated and their ultimate success far from proven.

The Sun may choose to be credulous in such matters but, absent convincing proof that there is no child left behind in our schools, the people of Maryland would be far better served to embrace this national initiative than to sneer at it.

John Walsh


The writer is executive director of the Group of Thirty, an international economic think tank.

Still awaiting the evidence that MSPAP program works

The Sun's editorial "New rules for schools can't kill local reform" (Jan. 1) says that the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) has "reshaped the state's educational landscape." What it doesn't say is if such reshaping has been for good or ill.

After more than 10 years of MSPAP, I have yet to see any evidence that students who do well on MSPAP also do well on SATs or in college admissions. Nor do I know any study that compares such real-world success of populations subjected to the curriculum and teaching changes imposed by the MSPAP to populations that were not, both before and after the onset of MSPAP.

I hope the new federal education bill will at least encourage the kinds of studies necessary to finally determine whether the MSPAP is really serving our children.

John D. Schiavone


Expanded jail will detract from Towson's appeal, too

If Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger really believes that our old 300-bed jail in Towson is an "eyesore" that negatively impacts the community ("Balto. Co. jail to be replaced by park," Dec. 29), what does he expect his proposed 1,700-bed jail in Towson to be? A tourist attraction?

John Patterson


Why let a teen-ager pilot an airplane?

Many so-called experts on teen-age behavior tell us teen-agers are too emotionally and physically immature to make good judgments about sex, love, voting, alcohol and guns, thus excusing the deadly behaviors we constantly see.

Why then would anyone permit a young, emotionally unstable child to take flying lessons, thereby allowing him to attempt what might have been mass murder ("Teen who crashed plane left note supporting Sept. 11 attack," Jan. 7)?

Are we so afraid to say "no" that we wink at possibly nightmarish consequences of the acts of our so very spoiled American youths?

Michael S. Eckenrode


`Marylander of the Year' should serve humanity

I can appreciate the fact that the Baltimore Ravens "decisively captured Super Bowl XXXV" last January, as noted in the half-page editorial "Festivus Ravenous" (Dec. 30), but I fail to comprehend how The Sun could award them the honor of "Marylanders of the Year."

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