Parents not surprised by poor curriculum audit

September 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Jessie Unger found few surprises this week in an audit that revealed a wide range of problems in Washington County Schools including curriculum shortfalls, high dropout rates and poor budgeting.

Unger has believed all along that schools spend too much time showing kids how to pass assessment tests rather than teaching them the basics.

Unger, a parent and active member of local parent teacher groups, said she and others had made their concerns very clear to the Washington County Board of Education.


"We didn't have to spend $43,000 to find it out," said Unger, vice president of the Smithsburg Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association and first vice president of the Washington County Council of PTAs.

Unger was referring to the price that was paid for the audit, which was conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International, an education organization that specializes in auditing the effectiveness of schools.

Unger's feelings were reflected by parents and officials throughout the county Friday.

Teri Williamson, president of the Washington County Council of PTAs, said parents are generally satisfied with their children's lessons, but they worry whether they are being delivered.

The 177-page audit released Thursday said the school system's curriculum guides for teachers varied in quality, which has hurt lesson planning. Auditors also found that effective teaching practices varied considerably between schools.

Williamson said a new state assessment test was given to high school students in June to measure their knowledge of a core curriculum and it is believed they did not fare well.

John Schnebly said he remembered flipping through his daughter's high school French book one day trying to help her with a verb lesson, but all he saw was pictures of the French countryside. Schnebly's daughter made straight A's in her French courses at South Hagerstown High, but she found the level of standards for the field were much different when she went to Lynchburg College in Virginia.

There were other complaints of taking programs away from children, like music, and not being aggressive enough in increasing students' Scholastic Assessment Test scores.

Parents said people often don't realize the scope of the problems until their children go to school.

"The more you get involved, the more you see it in every direction," said parent Kitty Spoonire of Halfway.

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