Holding kids back is no way to improve students...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 06, 2002

Holding kids back is no way to improve students' performance

A recent Sun editorial suggests the basic reason high school students can't read at grade level and don't know basic math, and that a high school diploma does not equate with knowledge or achievement, is "social promotion" ("Hold the line on social promotion," Jan. 24).

Ending social promotion is really about retention. And more than 25 years of research about retention's effect shows almost uniformly negative results.

Retained students are more likely to drop out than non-retained peers and perform more poorly on average than if they had been promoted. And minority students are held back disproportionately.

A recent study on ending social promotion in the Chicago public schools, where students have been retained in grades three, six, and eight since 1997, confirmed these findings. Researchers found that retained students did no better than low-performing students promoted before the retention policy. And retention was particularly detrimental to third-grade students -- who did worse than students with similar test scores who were promoted.

These findings suggest retention is unlikely to improve achievement, and that retention policies will be costly failures.

We should be asking how we ought to teach low-achieving students, what programs and practices are likely to help low-achieving students and what needs to be done to prepare teachers to teach reading more effectively.

Gail Sunderman

Baltimore

Forget statewide curriculum; give parents more control

The Sun's article "Rural 3rd-graders see big reading drop" (Jan. 29) suggests the [MSPAP] test results are indicative of the need for a statewide curriculum.

But perhaps the problem is that the state has too much control. Perhaps parents should have more control over the operation and curriculum of local schools.

The teachers and administrators of the local schools should be accountable to the parents of those being taught.

Look at the Chicago schools, where the high school graduation rate is barely 50 percent -- centralized control of the school curriculum leads to disaster. And what has improved the situation? Parental involvement through local school boards.

Jim Martin

Cockeysville

Outraged by funds, time wasted on MSPAP tests

As a taxpayer, I am outraged at the millions and millions of dollars that continue to be wasted on the MSPAP.

As a retired teacher, I am saddened to think an entire generation of students has had their education wasted with the time and energy spent on this test. Can you imagine what amenities could have been given to students with that money?

Pat Howell

Columbia

Wearing an Army uniform is enough to show respect

Why is the U.S. Army in Saudi Arabia discriminating against some of its own by equating respect for local religious practice with submission by our female soldiers to the humiliation and physical encumbrance of head-to-toe veils and male accompaniment when off-base ("U.S. commanders in Arabia require robes for women," Jan. 24)?

Etiquette demands restraint, not abasement. A U.S. Army uniform would be appropriate clothing for the public display of respect.

Members of the armed forces are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, not sharia. Army command does not have the authority to require a specified religious practice or, indeed, any religious practice by servicemen or women.

And what message on religious freedom and equal opportunity are these Army commanders promoting: "You can always sue"?

Diana C. Schramm

Baltimore

Cheney's stonewalling squanders his credibility

During the 2000 campaign, I admired Dick Cheney for his forthright and common-sense approach to big issues. But whatever credibility he gained then he has lost with his refusal to make public his dealing with Enron Corp.

Compared with the Enron issue, President Clinton's Whitewater is a muddy piece of ground on a rural creek.

If rich, powerful people taking millions of dollars and leaving their employees' retirement empty isn't grand theft, then we live in Afghanistan.

And if Mr. Cheney doesn't come clean, Congress should proceed with an impeachment hearing.

R.T. Kambic

Baltimore

Some users view marijuana as an alternative to alcohol

In their column on "Doonesbury" and marijuana, Ed Gogek and Jim Gogek acknowledge that "alcohol and tobacco are legal and in many ways more harmful than marijuana" but claim that's no reason to legalize pot ("Nothing funny about comic strip character's wasted life," Opinion * Commentary, Jan. 27).

I beg to differ.

I know alcoholics who have turned their lives around by putting down the bottle and picking up the marijuana pipe. Granted, they may still have a substance abuse problem, but at least now they can get out of bed in the morning without a hangover and lead productive lives.

Nor do they run the risk of drinking themselves to death.

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