Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 05, 2006

Tests show students struggle to graduate

While I agree with the editorial "Testing progress" (Aug. 23) that progress has been made on the recent high school assessment tests, one-third of the students still failed two of the three tests whose results have been reported.

And a persistent and significant racial and class achievement gap persists.

More than half of low-income students failed at least one test, as did about half of the black students and one-third of Hispanics.

Further, the results from the middle school assessment tests for eighth-graders are equally discouraging: Only 67 percent scored proficient in reading and 55 percent in math, with a similar achievement gap for minority students.

We are a long way from popping the champagne.

All Maryland students must pass these high school tests in order to graduate, starting with this year's sophomore class.

If the same proportion of this year's 10th-graders fail the test as failed last year, 21,000 students statewide will be at risk of not graduating.

And don't count on the Thornton education funding program to come to the rescue.

Our analysis of spending patterns in districts that care for the majority of at-risk students indicates that these funds have gone for district-wide programs, not programs and services for the at-risk school population.

Education is the No. 1 issue among Maryland voters this year, according to various polls.

Candidates for state and county offices should explain exactly how they would address the challenges facing our high school students.

Mark Woodard

Baltimore

The writer is education director for Advocates for Children and Youth.

City schools strive to broaden horizons

Liz Bowie's excellent article "New SATs produce decline in scores" (Aug. 30) mentions the high SAT participation rate among Baltimore high school graduates.

But further context would be helpful.

This year, almost 76 percent of our graduates sat for their college boards, surpassing the 70 percent state participation rate and the 48 percent national participation rate.

It is a given that our most capable students will take the SAT. And this is a concrete demonstration of the college-going culture the city schools are striving to inculcate.

The thoughtful reader may view this performance against the background of Kelly Brewington's article "State of haves and have-nots" (Aug. 30), which ran on the same Sun front page and detailed the concentrated poverty in the community city schools serve.

We are working to give our students a broader horizon, greater aspirations, a sense that higher education is a possibility for them.

Our students have accepted the challenge.

Benjamin Feldman

Baltimore

The writer is the research, evaluation and accountability officer for Baltimore's public schools.

Uniforms impose archaic standards

I find it interesting and a little sad that local schools are moving to rigid dress standards even as business and the rest of the country are moving toward more casual dress ("Uniforms take pressure off," Aug. 31).

You can be sure the people talking about how the students looked "sharp" in their uniforms grew up in a bygone era of suits, ties and office dresses in the workplace.

Faceless uniformity is not something our diverse nation should be seeking.

Omar Siddique

Ellicott City

A new McCarthyism against war's critics

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman have been accusing war critics of cowardliness, dishonor and disloyalty, using the phrase "cut and run" while denying that they are questioning anyone's patriotism.

When the GOP introduced the phony-baloney term "Islamo-fascism," I realized they wanted to legitimize the Iraq war by invoking images of World War II and Nazis.

And when I read The Sun's article "Bush aides lead 2006 GOP assault" (Aug. 30), I realized the new inflammatory campaign rhetoric is post-9/11 McCarthyism designed to activate their base and silence those opposed to Bush administration.

Richard L. Ottenheimer

Pikesville

Early voting enables more to participate

I was greatly disheartened to see three letters to the editor on Thursday denouncing The Sun's editorial on early voting ("Early voting," Aug. 28) and would just like readers to know that at least one citizen of Maryland agrees with The Sun's position.

In a time when average blue- or white-collar workers work increasingly longer days with longer commutes, I find it easy to understand that someone might not be able to make it to a polling place on Election Day.

Early voting helps strengthen and extend democracy in this state by making it easier to vote and enabling those who might not have been able to vote in the past to take part in future elections whose outcomes may have a great effect on their lives.

Why anyone would not want such an outcome is beyond my comprehension.

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