Can our kids read? Schools won't tell I am writing to...

Arundel Letters

May 19, 2002

Can our kids read? Schools won't tell

I am writing to you about the double language arts program that the sixth graders took in every middle school this year. As a parent, I was asked to complete a survey about this new program. You have to see it to believe it. This is a sample of the survey: "I believe my child is a good reader. (Strongly agree, agree, don't know, disagree, strongly disagree.)"

The survey, from the Coordinator of Research and the Interim Superintendent, continues in this vein. As a parent and taxpayer, one would certainly hope that Anne Arundel County children are reading and writing better than a year ago. However, believing and seeing proof are two different things. For me to respond accurately to a survey such as this, I would want test scores, or a before-and-after sample of the work that was accomplished in the language arts program.

I expected to see lots of book reports and essays graded and edited by the teacher. What I got was, "You are not allowed to see any writing samples because we are doing Risk Free Writing." Not once, all year, did I see written work from the class. Nor did I ever see a ... writing assignment. I know [my child] had at least one quiz, for which he had to memorize, "grammar - a special way of thinking about language." But I don't know how he did on that quiz or any test, either! I expected a well coordinated reading program. What I got was not much of interest to my child, who like many boys, likes history and non-fiction. There was no non-fiction all year and the fiction choices were very limited.

There was a required at home reading element, with parents requested to ask their student meaningful questions about what was read at home. (When my child had 20 points deducted from his reading at home grade for not being able to read meaningfully on 9/11, I stopped all pretense of honesty. I signed for reading on Thanksgiving, Christmas, every single day of the year - and my child does love to read.) There was a spelling at home component, still with no rhyme or reason to the list. The few other classes he was allowed to take this year had clearly defined grading practices. I can tell you what he worked on in science, tech ed, math and art, and how it was graded. I had no idea how my child was graded in language arts other than on spelling tests, which were prepared at home, and the read at home time, which was also strictly done at home.

Kathy Solano

Severna Park

Music education must not be ignored

We are six students that attend Annapolis Senior High School that felt an injustice is being done to the music programs in the public school system. One day in Mr. Kirby's Honors Government class, we were told we had to complete a service learning project in order to graduate from High School, and we saw an opportunity to advocate for the music programs in public schools that a majority of our group participated in.

Through our research, we discovered that studying music in schools furthers one's education, and a vast majority of the students in the higher level classes participated in music education. Music allows one's math skills to be expanded, and elongates one's attention span.

However, the Board of Education does not seem to support the music programs of public schools. We are hoping with the appointment of the new superintendent, Dr. Eric Smith, that this view will come to change.

During the course of our service learning project, we visited local schools (Rolling Knolls Elementary, Germantown Elementary, Bates Middle) and took part in their music programs for a period of time. We held sectionals, helped in a joint elementary school concert, and performed for music students at the elementary schools. What we found during our time there was impressive. Elementary school students who participated in music programs were better behaved than some high school students. The students in grade level schools that took place in music enjoyed being part of a group, something that may be equated to being on a sports team. The difference between the sports students and the music students was that the music students were more interested and involved in the academic side of school than the athletic students were. Almost all the music students we met did very well in school, and they enjoyed seeing the level of musicianship that they could come to after studying music for as long as we had. Most, if not all the students we met, said they would continue to study music throughout their school career, without a doubt in their minds.

We feel as music students, that the most beneficial element of our academic carrier is being threatened. What we saw in the schools when we visited was something that should not be taken out of the public school system. It was a feeling of belonging, being the same, but unique at the same time. This is something that is hard to find in public schools, or any school for that matter. Please, do not get rid of something so beneficial to students.

Jennnifer Rugolo

Elizabeth Kimble

Susan Wheatley

Janel Zarkowsky

Alec Cronin

Greg Hintz


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