letters to the editor 4/14

April 15, 2002

If a MSPAP test falls in the forest...

To the editor:

On Tuesday April 2 the Board of Education had a meeting to discuss the future of this year's eighth-grade MSPAP. After voting to eliminate this year's eighth-grade MSPAP, the board allowed citizen comment about whether or not eighth grade MSPAP should be eliminated. Before starting my remarks I suggested that it might make more sense to have the citizen input on an agenda item before taking the vote rather then waiting until after the vote.

The following were my remarks about the proposal to eliminate eighth grade MSPAP.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to, perhaps, mourn the passing of our acquaintance and, may I say, friend, eighth-grade MSPAP. We have known our beloved MSPAP for only about eight years. The birth of MISPAP was attended with so many hopes and expectations. Of this test it was said, "Unlike functional tests, which measure basic knowledge, the MSPAP tests set high expectations and demand high levels of performance." Was it only six months ago that I was told that three things in life are certain, death, taxes, and MSPAP. Now, if eighth-grade MSPAP ceases to exist, would we be safe in assuming that taxes and death will soon trouble us no more? There is now talk of going back to a previous test. Perhaps the good book is right when it says:


"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There's nothing new under the sun."

The Maryland State Department Of Education Strategic Plan states, "By 2003, all schools will approach, meet, or exceed the satisfactory standard in grade three reading, language usage, and mathematics on MSPAP measures." Does anyone expect this will actually happen? Once again we can turn to the good book for commentary:

"Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the teacher.

"Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

Only a year-and-a-half ago a high-level state official said, "We also see that eighth-grade students who have been in our system for considerable time continue to make consistent gains. We view this optimistically, but we are not satisfied."

Now with those words of hope before us we talk about ending eighth-grade MSPAP.

For eight years teachers have striven to have their classes do better on MSPAP. I was told that every lesson I taught should be designed to help my students do better on MSPAP. Now, what will happen? Two years ago the sixth-grade teachers of this year's eighth-grade strove mightily to have their students prepared for the eighth-grade MSPAP.

One year ago the seventh-grade teachers of this year's eighth-grade strove mightily to have their students prepared for the eighth-grade MSPAP. This year the eighth-grade teachers have striven mightily to have their students prepared for the eighth-grade MSPAP.

To paraphrase the good book, "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What do teachers gain from all their labor at which they toil under the fluorescent lights?"

Alas, we have been told that MISPAP would be our educational savior. Now MSPAP is beginning to be dismantled. How will we convince teachers that the program that replaces MSPAP is finally the one true savior of education?

If eighth-grade MSPAP is eliminated this year, how can we keep our teachers from feeling that (paraphrasing the good book) "My heart took delight from my work and this was the reward for all my labor? Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done to prepare students for eighth-grade MSPAP, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Nothing was gained under the sun"

Russell Williams


Washington County Board of Education


Foolish policy

To the editor:

The DNR Forest Service has responded to more than 50 wildfires so far this year. The fires have burned more than 1,200 acres of forest, marsh and fields. The state has an eight-to-10 inch average rainfall deficit for the past six-month period The state is currently classified in a moderate drought. If current weather patterns continue, with warmer-than -normal temperatures and less-than-normal precipitation, we could face a very active spring fire season.

The local rural firefighting community is well aware of the danger. More than 253 outdoor fires in Frederick and Washington Counties, nearly all caused by humans, occurred last year. As the population increases and more people build homes in the woods, so too do the number of fires and the threat to life and property increase.

With this in mind the "bean counters" in the State Department of Budget and Management have decreed that Forest Service personnel, even those on call 24 hours a day for forest fire emergencies, must leave their state vehicles at the office at the end of the work day and use their personal vehicles for commuting, unless their vehicles carry water tanks, pumps and fire hose.

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