May 20, 2007

County schools lack technology

I was laughing as I read the article, "Arundel Classrooms Increasingly High-Tech" (May 13). It is true that Anne Arundel County has nowhere to go but up, but to even begin to brag about the school technology in this county is a joke.

My children attend a public elementary school at Fort Meade. Classrooms have to share TVs on the old A/V carts. There are VCRs, but no DVD players. The library has one DVD in its collection but no player to play it. New educational videos cannot be purchased because VCR tapes are obsolete.

The principal and teachers do not have e-mail addresses that are given to the parents. We have to call the school and leave a message with an administrative assistant, not even a voice-mail system!

Of course, the teachers do not have their own Web sites to give out homework assignments or to communicate with parents. Everything is done the old-fashioned way at this school. It is like trying to operate in a vacuum when technology is such a big part of our lives now.

We moved here from Columbia County, Ga. All I heard while living in Georgia is how poor the schools are there. Not true. We had full-day pre-K for all 4-year-olds, full-day kindergarten and technology that would blow Anne Arundel County's mind.

All the classrooms have TVs that are linked to the school network. Announcements are made live. A fifth-grade news show broadcast live every day from the media center. The media center can show videos or DVDs to the whole school, a few classrooms, or just one class at prescribed times. I believe some rooms have their own DVD players.

Each teacher has a computer in their room that alerts them to incoming e-mail and voice mail. Most teachers have pages on the school board's Web site to communicate with parents. The middle and high schools have iParent so that parents can check grades at any time. Most schools were starting to buy "smartboards" for teachers.

I don't even begin to know what all they have in the computer labs.

Anne Arundel County won't even fund an Accelerated Reader program or equivalent, leaving it up to the PTA.

I believe the teachers are doing the best they can and strive very hard to teach the children. But given the limits they are under and the 45-minute shorter school day (compared to Georgia) I think they are severely handicapped in what they can accomplish.

With better technology, parents would feel more in touch and be more likely to want to be involved at the school.

Anne Arundel County should be applauded for their realization that they need improvement but, wow, they have a LONG way to go.


Fund teaching, not extras

In your May 11 article regarding County Executive John R. Leopold's budget cuts, school board vice president Eugene Peterson was quoted as saying that "if adequate funding isn't provided, schools will have to focus solely on classroom instruction, and students will have to pay out of pocket for extracurricular activities and clubs."

I am not sure that I understand Mr. Peterson's outrage that school funding should be used to "focus on classroom instruction." It has always been my impression that the purpose of the school system was to provide classroom instruction of a kind and quality to ensure that our children have the tools they will need when they enter adulthood.

Kids and their parents depend on the school system to help them acquire sufficient knowledge and skills to effectively participate in this society and to have at least a realistic perception of their rights in and obligations to it. Reading, writing, history, geography, mathematics, maybe even philosophy; that is what classroom instruction is for ... and classroom instruction is what the school budget is for.

Extracurricular activities are wonderful for kids. However, they are not and should not be considered priorities when there is a funding squeeze. Kids will still play sports and still pursue their interests without funding from the school system. However, when an official at Mr. Peterson's level of responsibility makes the statement that extracurricular activities merit the same level of funding as classroom instruction, one begins to wonder whether we have the right school board officials in place.


Hold students, parents responsible

In response to the "School Forums Focus on Gap" article (May 16), are the efforts and resources being expended by Anne Arundel County schools to improve student performance consistent for student of all ethnic backgrounds, or are students of preferred ethnic backgrounds receiving preferential treatment?

What extra resources are being devoted to improve the performance of students of Asian, Hispanic, and European ethnic backgrounds? Will the cultural proficiency training include recognizing the body language and nonverbal signs of students from German, Slavic and Italian ethnic backgrounds?

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