Letters To The Editor


August 23, 2006

New grade standard levels playing field

As a teacher in Baltimore's public schools, I applaud the change of the system's minimum passing grade from 70 to 60 ("Feud over schools heats up," Aug. 17).

As a teacher, it helps me because, frankly, not all kids are average at every subject. Under the earlier system, I ended up with a ton of kids bunched right in the 68 percent to 72 percent range and sometimes had to juggle numbers to get kids to pass.

Setting a grade of a 70 as a minimum passing grade just watered down what a "C" really was. Sometimes, a kid works pretty hard and just gets a "D." It happens.

The traditional A-B-C-D grading scale works to allow an appropriate grade for a kid who does not deserve not to have to retake a class but still isn't up to the average level of the class.

As much as we would like every student to be at least average in every subject, it does not always happen, and the "D" grade allows for that.

The reason the school board made the change, however, is much more practical.

Under the old system, graduates of city public schools would be credited with a 0.0 on their 0-4.0 scale when applying to college if they received a grade between 60 and 69. Kids from the county would receive a credit of a 1.0 on that scale for the same numerical grade.

Thus already-disadvantaged city kids were being judged more harshly than kids from the rest of the state on college admissions.

This is blatantly unfair.

Why should a kid in Baltimore County or Cecil County pass for getting a grade of 65 percent and get that passing grade on his or her high school transcript but not a city student?

This change in policy did not lower standards. It just puts the district on a level playing field with most school districts in the state and the nation.

Mark Miazga


The writer teaches English at Baltimore's City College High School.

Mayoral control isn't cure for school woes

Whatever the outcome of the current finger-pointing over the under-performance of Baltimore's schools, it is merely a taste of what is in store for taxpayers if mayoral control of the city's schools ever becomes a reality ("Middle school slide," editorial, Aug. 20).

The problem is that when mayors take over control of school systems, the schools become only one of a series of issues that voters must consider when assessing the mayor.

As a result, accountability for school achievement is diffused rather than focused.

It's important to bear in mind that it was bare-knuckle politics that led to the rise of independently elected school boards during the Progressive era in the early 1900s.

That's an indispensable lesson for Baltimore today.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles

The writer is a former teacher and lecturer at the UCLA Graduate School of Education.

An inexcusable low in anti-Muslim bias

While I have become shamefully accustomed to displays of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry in The Sun, Victor Davis Hanson's column "Excuse after excuse for Islamist violence" (Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 18) was a new low.

Mr. Hanson is sick of hearing the "tired whines," "gripes" and "grumbles" of "Islamists" who want to kill Americans because "they" are scared of the "dynamism" of "Western culture."

But he's somewhat vague about whom he is actually describing.

The handful of Pakistanis recently arrested in the United Kingdom by the same security agencies that a year ago shot a Brazilian man in the face on the subway because he looked like a "terrorist"?

The people of Lebanon, who have just survived a month-long campaign of destruction at the bloody hands of the Middle East's only nuclear power?

Or is Mr. Hanson simply referring to our brown-skinned neighbors or the man in line behind us at the airport?

Ben Dalbey


Finding the footage of our own mugging

I think it's a fine idea to use surveillance cameras on Baltimore's mean streets ("Jessamy criticized over cameras," Aug. 16).

Just think, now you could get mugged and then be able to get to see a picture of your mugging.

Ruth Fried

Owings Mills

Neighbors mobilized to help abused child

I was horrified and outraged to read about one more case of child sexual abuse in which the victim was abandoned by the "justice" and social service systems ("Child's case ignites protest," Aug. 16)

But I was heartened as well. Heartened that the article about the case was not just two paragraphs buried in the back of the Maryland section but was right on the section's front page.

Even more encouraging was the fact that the girl's neighbors rallied to protect her. They didn't avert their gaze or figure it was just a "family problem;" they took action on her behalf.

Somehow, the justice system and the social services agencies didn't realize that placing the wolf right back in the henhouse was not the most, um, judicious way to protect a girl from further trauma.

Thankfully, her neighbors and the prosecutors did.

One in three girls and one in six boys is sexually abused by the age of 18. Ninety-three percent of them know their abuser.

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