The trouble with AIM

November 01, 2010

There are three elements of the recent Sun discussions of the aborted AIM grading system project in Baltimore County Public Schools that I find particularly troublesome ("Hairston must give answers," Nov. 1).

The first is Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joe Hairston's refusal to talk about the state legislature's inquiry into AIM and the ethics surrounding its creation, development and implementation. Mr. Hairston needs to remember that, as the superintendent, he is the chief educator of the students in his school system. Every teacher knows that children are full of "how's" and "why's." To display an arrogance of power by initially refusing to discuss the how and why of AIM in Annapolis gives him zero credibility as a role model for teachers.

Then, for him later to say that he had no part in the decision to email an emergency bulletin mandating the immediate implementation of AIM because he was out of his office for physical therapy is a totally lame excuse (no pun intended). There is no bulletin sent from Greenwood that the superintendent cannot instantly countermand if it does not have his approval. Please don't tell me that he had no awareness of something that was about to have such far-reaching impact. The fact is that Mr. Hairston did not rescind the order until after teachers vehemently protested its onerous requirements.

Second, Barbara Dezmon's personal stance also begs credibility. If, in her words, the state attorney general gave her no specifics as to what he wanted to discuss regarding AIM, then I have to wonder just what she was referring to as "a mass of lies and untruths." And as for her to claim to have been personally insulted and in a threatened position "akin to a lynching," that is simply a matter of her playing the race card as a red herring in a similarly arrogant attempt to avoid accountability.

Finally, I fail to understand how board president JoAnn Murphy can dismiss the AIM project as being "not a curriculum issue" and therefore not something the board would have voted on. AIM was designed to assess pupil progress. In this age of performance testing, every item on an assessment is aligned to one or more specific objectives in a published curriculum. Make no mistake: "alignment" is the magic word for test-writers. There are goals and objectives, there is instruction, hopefully there is learning, and then there is assessment. Each piece is inextricably connected to the others. If the board deemed AIM not to be within their purview, then perhaps they need to redefine just what constitutes "curriculum" in Baltimore County.

For sure, there is plenty of guilt to spread around for the AIM fiasco. A good place to start is by someone going to Greenwood and saying, "Joe, the buck stops on your desk!"

George W. Nellies, Towson

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