Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

September 01, 2007

Teachers take stand for planning time

The Sun's editorial "Rules of work" (Aug. 24) reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the teachers union's call for teachers to "work to the rule."

The editorial states that "caring teachers who prize professionalism should be less interested in `work to rule' than in resolving an issue to the benefit of students."

But it is precisely because teachers want to help students that they are "working to the rule" and refusing to relinquish time for lesson planning.

Planning time is necessary to structure lessons and provide students the maximum benefit in the classroom.

And Sun readers should know that Baltimore teachers are given less time for lesson planning than teachers in any other school district in the state.

At present, Baltimore secondary teachers are allowed five 45-minute planning periods - or 225 minutes per week - and elementary teachers are given three 45-minute planning periods per week.

Baltimore County gives secondary and elementary school teachers 225 minutes per week. Prince George's County not only guarantees 225 minutes per week for lesson planning for secondary and elementary school teachers but also provides an additional 25 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted planning time during student lunch periods.

Montgomery County guarantees 245 minutes of planning time for elementary school teachers, gives secondary school teachers five preparation periods per week and gives all teachers three full days each year for planning and grading.

"Caring teachers who prize professionalism" know that a structured lesson plan is essential to the educational process - particularly when, as in the case of Baltimore's schools, that process must compete with such distractions as old and dilapidated buildings with dysfunctional heating and ventilation systems, a larger than average number of at-risk youths and classroom populations of 35 students or more.

These distractions exist despite the fact that the Baltimore school system has a budget of more than $1 billion and a staff of more than 12,000 to accommodate a population of approximately 83,000 students.

Every school district in the state, with the exception of Baltimore's, understands the importance of planning time.

But Baltimore's school administrators seem to think either that planning time is a luxury teachers can do without or that, for some reason, Baltimore's teachers don't need as much planning time as other teachers do.

If "working to the rule" is necessary to get the city school board to acknowledge what every other school district in the state knows and accepts, then Baltimore's teachers will work to the rule.

Marietta English

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

Shuttle at station still waste of time

While it's a good idea to make the light rail ride from Penn Station to Camden Yards easier, the Maryland Transit Administration should really consider making the everyday task of getting from the Mount Royal stop to Penn Station easier and faster ("Nonstop light rail to Penn," Aug. 23).

Ninety percent of the time, it's faster for a northbound commuter to walk from Penn Station to the Mount Royal light rail stop than to take the Penn Station light rail shuttle. (Just witness all the people crossing Charles Street around 5:10 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. each evening.)

That other 10 percent represents the oddball times when light rail leaves Penn Station shortly after a commuter's MARC train arrives.

If you take a chance on finding such a train, however, you can easily add 30 minutes to your northbound commute if you don't find a shuttle right away.

Is it any wonder so many MARC commuters from areas north of Penn Station will drive to West Baltimore or Halethorpe or even pay for parking in and around Penn Station rather than use the light rail?

Bill Ballantyne

Baltimore

ADHD medication helps patients thrive

Unfortunately, Karin Klein's column "ADHD drugs: oversold and overused" (Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 23) panders to parent and patient fears about treatments for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder that, in fact, are highly effective.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 8 percent of U.S. children have ADHD, and according to the largest psychiatric study conducted, 4.4 percent of U.S. adults also have the condition.

By following children with ADHD for 10 to 20 years, researchers have come to understand that 30 percent to 50 percent of these children will continue to suffer ADHD symptoms that will impair their lives as adults.

Medical research has clearly documented that untreated ADHD leads to significantly higher rates of tobacco use, alcohol and substance abuse and teenage pregnancy and to lower levels of education, reduced annual incomes, increased risk for driving accidents that cause injuries and higher rates of divorce and unemployment.

Untreated, ADHD is clearly a chronic, disabling illness with severe negative consequences.

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