April 03, 2009

City schools show signs of progress

I don't share the worry that Liz Bowie communicated in her article "May target looms" (March 26).

My division of the Baltimore school system examines the data on the High School Assessment tests on a regular basis, and our sense of the situation is much more upbeat.

Students now have multiple paths to graduation, including simply passing the HSAs or doing Bridge Plan projects, which are a kind of senior thesis that provides an alternative path to meet graduation requirements.

The Bridge Plan projects also offer corollary benefits. They focus school staff on the needs of individual students and focus students on their work in a personally accountable way.

Guiding and grading the projects have given our teachers valuable insight into the workings of the state curriculum and the state assessment tests.

Best of all, seniors are enjoying a prerogative normally reserved for private schools: a year of independent study.

Spring HSA testing is this month. I think our kids will exceed last year's accomplishments, and the enriched student-focused environment will translate into fewer dropouts and more graduates than ever.

Benjamin Feldman, Baltimore

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

Students use loans to get higher income

Robert Applebaum thinks that all student loans should be forgiven since "these people didn't take out these loans to live high on the hog" ("Letting students off the hook," April 1).

But of course they did; taking out loans to attend universities and graduate schools is a way to improve their lifetime earning capability. After all, lawyers have considerably higher income than retail clerks, which allows them a higher standard of living.

And many people took student loans to go to prestigious institutions they could not otherwise afford and on to graduate schools they could not afford to enhance their job prospects and income. If this is not living large, what is?

If these students really do not think that the loans were an investment against future income (i.e., debt now for a higher standard of living in the future), maybe their education was a waste of time and money.

Thomas G. Pinter, Lutherville

Arts are essential to cultural identity

Before laws and lawmakers, there was art.

Before religion and entertainment, there was art on cave walls and theater around campfires.

Without art, we'll be a second-rate culture, struggling in an economy that requires ideas, innovation and an expansive worldview.

Our story is at stake.

Peter Davis, Baltimore

Franklin molded vision of our past

I'd like to add my hymn of praise to the thunderous accolades honoring the late John Hope Franklin ("John Hope Franklin," editorial, March 27).

I had two encounters with Mr. Franklin and his work.

As an undergraduate I read his From Slavery to Freedom. I anticipated an easy read. I encountered an encyclopedic tome of impressive breadth and depth of a topic never before so expertly documented and described.

I also met Mr. Franklin at the Enoch Pratt Central Library when he gave a lecture there in June 2005 and discussed and signed copies of his autobiography, Mirror to America.

Here was a man who more than recorded history; he experienced and helped mold it.

Without Mr. Franklin's scholarship, I wonder how much African-American history might have vanished unknown and unsung?

Gary F. Suggars, Baltimore

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