Letters to the editor for 7/7

July 08, 2002

County school test scores are indefensible

To the editor:

Wow. Robert C. Brown, Supervisor of Assessment and Testing for Washington County public schools accuses me of self-serving, misleading, inflammatory, self-styled expert opinions and misrepresentations. All this personal invective because of a Letter to the Editor, The Herald-Mail editorial staff entitled "Test evaluations misleading."

Mr. Brown, allow me to inform you the information contained in my editorial piece about the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) test (a norm-referenced test) merely presented actual education experts' acknowledgment that the CTBS test tells parents of students and students very little about that student's actual mastery of specific subject matter.

Here's a published comment about the CTBS test by Ronald A. Peiffer, ED.D, Assistant State Superintendent, Maryland State Department of Education. It's a direct quote from an article "New problems could crop up with new tests."


"The CTBS provides limited information about individual students by measuring what percentile a student falls in based on a national norm. That gives you some pretty limited information. As a norm-referenced test, it doesn't really help you."

Why would Brown launch a personal attack on me which rises to the level of a diatribe? Is it his effort to mask the reality that Washington County's public school system allows far too many students to progress through the grades and graduate neither college- or career-capable? Incidentally, you don't blame systemic failures of that nature on the classroom teacher. That is first and foremost a governance failure.

Brown is paid by the citizens of Washington County to be a supervisor of assessment and testing. To use his office to falsely leave parents of students with the belief that the CTBS test confirms a student is acquiring a high level of mastery of specific subject matter, is misrepresentation.

Brown states, "While normed-referenced test do not of necessity have performance standards - they most assuredly can be used to measure performance."

Read those words carefully. When someone presents to you something that when casually read "appears reasonable," but upon careful examination is intended to confuse, the word for that is "specious."

Clearly, Brown's editorial comments were intended to leave the parents of students, and citizens with the understanding that their students' performance on a norm-referenced test indicates that student is acquiring a high-level of mastery of the subject matter being tested.

Brown knows the CTBS is a low-level bell curve test. Why call me a bunch of names? Just tell the truth as the supervisor of Assessment of Testing for Washington County Public Schools.

Parents of students, fellow citizens and taxpayers I invite you to carefully examine my positions on education reform.

My views are purposely made readily available in great detail on the Web.

Classroom teachers, you have nothing to fear from me, unless you fear my goal to create a highly compensated elite teacher corps in Washington County.

Parents of students, fellow citizens and taxpayers you have nothing to fear from me, unless improving our quality of life, our economic health and our standard of living is something you fear. Education is the key.

You may e-mail, fax or call for information. My web site has three "Education" hyperlinks under "Hot Topics," each has PDF charts you can download. Two are relevant in light of Brown's accusations about my candidacy. They are:

Washington County's Students Mastery of Subject Matter (1972-2001).

Washington County's "Student Achievement Gap" by School by Subject.

Incidentally, Maryland is now planning its third major education reform initiative in 26 years. In fact, Washington County's school system governance (superintendent/board) told us our curriculum was: "Everything students should know and understand" at each grade level. Look at the student performance data for Washington County - and you be the judge.

Harold L. Phillips

County Commissioner


Clear Spring

(Editor's note: Harold Phillips' Web site is

Farm land is poorly valued to begin with

To the editor:

Regarding the article written by Harold Phillips, candidate for county commissioner, concerning Smart Growth, I am writing to take extreme exception to Phillips' assertion that Smart Growth will affect the value of an average 100-acre farm. This article appeared in the June 30 addition of The Herald-Mail.

Phillips states with absolute certainty that at this time "a 100-acre tract of land in an agricultural preservation zone that is worth $800,000 today, will be reduced in value to $400,000 by "regulatory taking."

Welcome to Demagoguery 101. There are few if any 100-acre parcels of land in Washington county that are working farms that are worth $800,000. As one who owns a 102-acre farm in South County which was very recently appraised at between $380,000 and $400,000, I take exception to this statement of fiction.

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