November 04, 2008

HSA tests unfair to English-learners

If the purpose of the High School Assessment tests is to determine students' understanding of English, biology, American government and algebra, the test is inappropriate for English-language learners ("Md. firm on tests," Oct. 29).

For these students, the HSA, in effect, measures the ability to read English rather than their knowledge and understanding of other subject matter.

I have taught several English-language learners who failed the HSA tests by as little as two points - which is no small achievement for a second-language learner when so many native speakers fail the tests. However, if the content on the HSA was presented at a more reasonable reading level, I have no doubt that many more my English-language learners would pass the state assessments.

Many English-language learners understand the subject content but simply do not have sufficient language skills to demonstrate their achievement.

The state should assess these students in a way that they can prove how much they know.

Mary K. Tabeling, Towson

The writer teaches English as a second language in the Baltimore County public schools.

Spying undermines faith in state police

The world seems to have gone mad on many fronts. And now a dedicated climate activist is spied on because he might be a terrorist ("Troopers' spy effort was wider," Oct. 24)? What total nonsense.

Mike Tidwell, the executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, is a man I have known for nearly three years. He is a fine writer, and his book, The Ravaging Tide, kept me reading until 3 a.m. It shows Mr. Tidwell's tremendous dedication to the well-being of the Earth and its inhabitants.

Our country needs people like him to stand up bravely for values Marylanders share: for clean, safe energy, breathable air and the preservation of Maryland's coasts.

To equate Mr. Tidwell's intentions with the murderous extremist attitude of a terrorist is to declare oneself untethered to reality.

If our Maryland State Police are so shockingly mistaken in their judgment of this man, how can we expect them to make good judgments about actual potential terrorists?

Frances Aubrey, Baltimore

The writer is a volunteer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

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