What MSPAP lacks is sound standards to measure success...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 21, 2002

What MSPAP lacks is sound standards to measure success

In its editorial "Bye-bye, MSPAP" (March 6), The Sun once again demonstrated its fundamental misunderstanding of the controversy surrounding Maryland's testing program.

The Sun's fixed position is that Maryland has a "successful standards and accountability program." Any controversy that arises is then characterized as a political struggle between the forces of high standards and full accountability, represented by state education officials, and those presumably dedicated to unaccountable mediocrity, such as Montgomery County school officials, the Abell Foundation and others.

What state education leaders have resisted admitting for far too long, and what The Sun will apparently never comprehend, is that while Maryland has created a sound structure for accountability, the current MSPAP is not a "successful standard" for measuring performance.

There are things wrong with the test that have to be fixed: Results should be reported by student; multiple choice questions should be added to the mix; good writing skills should not be allowed to substitute for content knowledge.

If these lessons had been learned when they were first identified, Maryland would indeed be a leading light in reform efforts. Instead, the test is mired in controversy and Maryland, like states that lagged far behind in reforming education, must prepare a revised test that meets its own goals, not to mention federal guidelines.

That is too bad, but it is certainly not a disaster, and it must not be allowed to derail the quest for high standards and accountability.

John Walsh

Catonsville

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

Ban governors from using the office to secure new jobs

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has no right to the position of chancellor of the University System of Maryland ("Delegates kill plan to bar governors from taking top job in UM system," March 13).

Indeed, it would be a gross abuse of power for the governor to accept a job from the Board of Regents. He would no doubt receive preferential consideration over other contenders for the job, who would perhaps not be fortunate enough to have hired most of those deciding who would fill the position.

Even though he has declared that he will not seek the $345,000-a-year job, Mr. Glendening and all future governors need to be legally banned from accepting any such position.

The danger in allowing Mr. Glendening and others to take advantage of their official decisions after they leave office is clear: Such officials are prone to becoming self-serving and spending their time in office setting up comfy future jobs.

Ian Fishman

Owings Mills

Postpone pay raises for state lawmakers

I keep reading that there is not enough money in the budget to fund or continue many excellent programs. But recently I read that the state legislators will all be getting raises ("Assembly is poised to accept pay raise," March 6).

How much would be saved for programs if they put their raise off another year?

Anne Lee

Timonium

Major Healy not guilty of true racial profiling

Thank you for the letter from Gary McLhinney outlining Maj. Donald E. Healy's motivation in the order he issued about a suspected rapist ("City police major sought only to protect citizens from rapist," March 9). The city and the police force can ill afford to lose an officer of Mr. Healy's experience and abilities.

But Mr. McLhinney might have gone one step further and pointed out that this action was not truly "racial profiling." Profiling is when people are stopped at random to investigate whether or not a crime has been committed.

Acting on a general description of a possible known suspect for a given crime is not, strictly speaking, profiling.

Franklin W. Littleton

Baltimore

Donate merger bonuses to help the poor get care

If CareFirst CEO William L. Jews is truly concerned about maintaining and improving customer service and coverage for the poor, perhaps he (and other senior company officers) could agree in advance to donate their multimillion-dollar "success fees" to low-income Marylanders who currently lack health insurance.

If this merger is half as good an idea as Mr. Jews and others claim, they should surely earn back these funds during their future employment with the merged, for-profit company.

Kevin Miller

Annapolis

More family planning aid could save lives, cut poverty

A recent Sun article on Ethiopia described the good news about condoms reducing the scourge of AIDS ("Ethiopia strives to control HIV," March 5). But there's also bad news: a big shortage of affordable condoms in many poor nations.

Without subsidies, condoms sell in such nations for roughly 20 cents apiece, far more than poor men and couples can afford. (One billion people around the world live on $1 a day or less.) That's why it's vital for foreign donors to buy condoms in bulk and ship them to these nations, where they can be sold at subsidized rates for only about one penny each.

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