Letters To The Editor


October 08, 2007

Add planning time for primary teachers

After reading "Wrongheaded tactics" (editorial, Oct. 3), I want to say that I support Baltimore's teachers.

In June, I retired after teaching for 30 years in Baltimore County's elementary schools.

I know that teaching is an extremely difficult profession - one that has become even more demanding in recent years with constantly changing curricula and ever-increasing hours spent on testing, grading tests and collecting data.

As a county teacher, I had five planning periods a week, and that was not enough.

Like many other teachers, I arrived at school an hour or more before classes and often stayed an hour or more after school. Indeed, when my children were young, this meant I paid more for day care so that I could effectively do my job.

Here is my suggestion: Baltimore teachers should not be required to give up planning time for collaborative planning. Instead, elementary school teachers should be allotted three additional planning times per week.

Five planning periods a week would be for individual planning and one would be used for collaborative planning.

More physical education, music and art teachers should be hired so other teachers can have this additional time.

Since physical activity and participation in the arts enhance learning, this plan would help the students and their dedicated teachers.

Margaret Ahrendt


Collaboration is key to successful schools

The Baltimore teachers union wants to characterize its disagreement with the school board and new schools CEO Andres Alonso as about its unwillingness to give up planning time ("Teachers union is taking on Alonso," Oct. 2).

But in fact, teachers are not being asked to give up planning time; rather, they are being asked to shift a small portion of their individual planning time to plan collaboratively with fellow teachers so they can better reach all their students.

When I look at urban schools doing well, I see that one vital factor is close collaboration among teachers.

One has to look no further than George Washington Elementary School, Baltimore's latest Blue Ribbon school, to see this point.

In "Pigtown kids score Blue Ribbon status" (Oct. 3), Principal Susan Burgess says, "Teachers spend a lot of time working together."

She cites such collaboration as a major reason for the school's success.

Since we know that collaborative planning time is a major factor behind improved schools, the school board and Mr. Alonso are right to seek more of it in all our schools.

John B. Powell Jr.


The writer is executive director of the Clayton Baker Trust, a charitable foundation that makes grants to improve Baltimore's public schools.

Alonso right to push for joint planning

Our teachers are our hope for the future; their capacity to reach out to young people will make or break our city.

But they cannot do it alone. And they need to find as much time as they can muster to collaborate to reach that end.

Unfortunately, the city teachers union's leadership apparently does not understand this point ("Teachers union is taking on Alonso," Oct. 2).

So we can best support our hardworking teachers by supporting our new city schools CEO, Andres Alonso.

Thomas E. Wilcox


The writer is president of the Baltimore Community Foundation.

More prep time is the best practice

Kudos to Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso for trying to bring to Baltimore a best practice that has been received well throughout the world ("Teachers union is taking on Alonso," Oct. 2).

Education research indicates that joint planning time is a very effective tool.

Shame on Mr. Alonso, however, for corrupting that best practice by not allotting more prep time for teachers.

Teachers in many countries teach only 15 to 20 hours a week so that they can spend a large part of their day in preparation for the lessons to be taught.

Education systems in the United States have not yet learned the value of good preparation and often demand that teachers teach 25 hours or more.

When will we learn that we get what we pay for?

Randall J. Schmalz

Perry Hall

The writer is a retired Baltimore public school teacher.

U.S. has reduced carbon emissions

The Sun's article "U.N. chief seeks quick action on warming" (Sept. 25) noted that the United States is "the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases." Actually, we are now second to China.

According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the United States produced about 5,800 megatons in 2006 while China produced about 6,200 megatons.

In addition, although the United States never seems to get credit for this, the U.S. decreased its carbon emissions by 1.4 percent in 2006 while China's increased by 8.7 percent over the previous year.

But I haven't seen a single article that reports the good news about the United States and the bad news about China.

Henry Debaugh


New tolls can make Pa. commuters pay

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