Letters to the editor for 6/12

June 12, 2002

Test evaluations are misleading

To the editor:

It is very disappointing to realize the governance of Washington County's public school system has made a decision to leave parents, students and the public under the erroneous impression that our eighth graders performance on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) is "an indicator that students are mastering reading, language and math."

Professional educators know the CTBS test is a rudimentary exam that sorts students along a low-level bell curve. This test is useful to the extent that you know whether children are doing better or worse than a national norm.

The national norm was established in 1996 when a sampling of students who supposedly are representative of all students in the country established the norm.


The "No Child Left Behind Act" recognizes this fact and will require all states to measure student performance against a set standard, testing students every year from third through eighth grades.

A new MSPAP test, which was a standards-based test, must be developed by Maryland to measure individual students' grade level performance.

Parents, even if your child tests at the 99th percentile on the CTBS test professional educators are well aware that this does not mean your child has mastered grade level English, math and reading. It simply means your child is above average compared to the "sample" of peers nationwide.

The difference between a "norm referenced test" and a "standards-based test" is day and night. An example, Washington County's eighth grade students in 2001, took the last MSPAP test under the old regimen.

The composite average for all eight middle schools measuring student mastery of reading was a dismal 28 percent scoring at the "satisfactory" level. Stated another way, 72 percent of Washington County students who took the standards-based test entered high school unable to read at a "satisfactory" level.

If we ever hope to make progress to build a consensus to develop a world-class pedagogy/curriculum infrastructure in Washington County parents, students and citizens must be told the truth.

Harold L. Phillips

Candidate for County Commissioner

Clear Spring

Students get less education

To the editor:

I have been reading that Washington County Schools will be terminating teachers' positions throughout the area. This is a shame for our next generation of students to get less and less education from our county.

I have seen that Hagerstown can install new lights throughout the town and then saw down the trees that were so nicely grown that were replaced with new ones that will have to grow again. I read the article that said that they were drawing birds to them and that they have fruit droppings. The new trees will still draw birds, and while there may not be any fruit falling from the trees, I'm sure someone will complain about them.

Well, I'm complaining that our schools are doing without the things that they need and the parents are providing more and more to the schools.

We as parents are paying more for any activity that our children participate in. If the county would say no to the projects of beautifying our town and yes to the projects of the school system then maybe our children would get a better education.

I know things were different when I was in school, but my parents never had to pay for any activity that I did, because our tax dollars went to the schools and our parents and residents of our town helped keep our town beautiful. But, now it seems that our taxes go up and it never helps our children. If anything, it takes away from them.

I'm not well-educated in politics, but I do know that when a county has to take away from the school system, then something is definitely wrong. I have lived in this county for 12 years and considered myself a permanent Hagerstown resident. But things have gotten the best of me with our school system, and I plan to move my children to a better school district. We as parents need to stand up and do what needs to be done for the sake of our children, not for the sake of downtown Hagerstown.

Because no matter how hard our town council or our highway administrators try to keep people there, residents are moving out and fewer people go downtown. There is hardly anything to go there for. I mean, don't get me wrong, but it's not a convenience any longer.

Melissa Earley


Parole cases deserve review

To the editor:

In his May 19 "Candidates talk" article, Andrew Schotz asked the candidates how they stood on granting parole to prisoners serving life sentences.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend expressed a desire to review each case individually, correctly noting that the law requires such a review. Her response surprised me, because the lieutenant governor has previously bragged about the "no parole for lifers" policy, and she was a complete partner with the governor in its formulation. I feel this policy is an illegal violation of due process rights.

A friend of mine, Karen Lynn Fried, has been imprisoned in Jessup since 1978, when she was 17 years old. I believe that she was denied a fair trial and quite possibly should have been acquitted. Further, even if one accepts Karen's sentence as being justified, both her sentencing judge and the Parole Commission had supported her release many years ago. Only Glendening and Townsend have prevented this intelligent woman from rejoining society, where she could make a valuable contribution.

I have written a long article about this case, which I have posted on the Internet, along with a petition supporting Karen's release. While I am certainly biased in my support of Karen, I nevertheless have tried to present both sides of the story. Interested readers may find the article and the petition at

Charles Stein

Boca Raton, Fla.

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