Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 12, 2006

School board helps impoverished kids

In his recent Nobel lecture, the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei noted that a United Nations high-level panel identified poverty as one of five threats to world security.

Dr. ElBaradei stated that those affected by poverty are "no less intelligent or less worthy than their fellow human beings. ... They were simply born into this fate. In the real world, this imbalance in living conditions inevitably leads to inequality of opportunity, and in many cases loss of hope."

Poverty and inequality exist in Carroll County and the impact is real.

According to the most recent U.S. census numbers for 2003, Carroll County has about 1,500 students (ages 5 -17) that live in poverty. This is an increase of about 450 students in two years.

There were about 2,350 children (ages 0 -17) living in poverty in 2003 -- an increase of about 600 children over the same two-year period. In two years, from 2001 to 2003, the percentage of children living in poverty in Carroll County has risen from 4.2 percent to 5.6 percent.

Policy makers can debate the best course of action to deal with the problem. Some may even debate whether we have a problem and it is tempting to equivocate by suggesting that while we may have a concern, we are much better off than some of our surrounding school districts.

But poverty is an issue where dealing in relative numbers helps console us and dealing with absolute numbers helps enlighten us. Those 2,350 children in Carroll County living in poverty are the absolute and deserve the same opportunity and the same hope as all the other children in Carroll County.

Carroll County Public Schools maintain achievement information on many student subgroups, including those students who receive free and reduced meals (FaRM) -- a program for low income families.

This information shows that, despite our efforts over the past few years, little progress has been made to "close the gap" in student achievement between FaRM [the federal Free and Reduced Meal program] students and other students.

In 2004 and 2005, for every 100 students that took the High School Assessments (HSAs) between 75 and 81 students passed each examination. For every 100 FaRM students that took the same HSAs, only between 51 and 62 passed each examination.

In the Maryland Schools Assessment (MSA), a test that assesses students' reading and math proficiency in Grades 3 through 8, Carroll County FaRM students' performance is significantly behind the performance of the total number of students and in some cases, as a group, showing a more than 30 percentage point difference.

In the area of discipline, our FaRM students make up about 10 percent of the student population and account for about 27 percent of the total suspensions.

Carroll County Public Schools continue to implement several programs to support low income families and students needing extra support. These programs do good and the achievement gap might be much larger without these programs. However, we must do more.

Although we have numerous programs in place to help these students, we need to critically evaluate each program's effectiveness. We need to abandon programs where evidence shows we are not seeing improvement. We must turn money away when it requires us to continue to implement programs that are ineffective. With regard to closing the achievement gap, we do not need more data, we just need more results.

Perhaps, most importantly we need to remind ourselves that children of low income families and poverty are no less intelligent and no less worthy. We must establish high expectations for all students, expect that they will learn, and provide them with the necessary support to reach their potential. Achievement gaps are not closed by lowering bars. They are closed by raising bars.

The Board of Education of Carroll County and Carroll County Public Schools believe, as one of their core values, that all students can learn and succeed -- no excuses, no exceptions.

The Board of Education and staff will continue to work diligently to "close the gap." We are committed to implementing programs that show results. The impact from poverty is real in Carroll County and the hope and future of thousands of children are at stake.

Thomas Hiltz Woodbine

The writer is president of the Carroll County Board of Education.

Politicians' lies are upsetting

What AILs me? AIL - Apathy, Ignorance, and Lies!!! I find it very confusing to understand the mentality of political minds of Democrats and Republicans.

The first point: Apathy is a mindset that has manifested itself in the attitude of most Democrats that I have spoken to. Most are quick to complain of government inadequacies, but few are willing to invest any of their time to help correct these inadequacies.

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