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School board, teachers seek middle ground on legislation

October 29, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

In preparing for the federally mandated No Child Left Behind act, which will place higher standards on individual students, the Washington County Board of Education and the Washington County Teachers Association are trying to find middle ground on how to involve teachers in the planning process.

Claude H. Sasse, Washington County Teachers Association president, said he wants no teacher to be left behind when it comes to the organization of the project.

Under the act, if individual students don't meet certain expectations, and the pattern extends to the school where the child is learning, sanctions will be taken against such low-performing schools. Students will then have the option of attending a higher-performing school.

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Sasse approached the School Board at its Oct. 15 meeting to propose a task force made up of teachers and members of the education community be involved in devising a method of attack to ensure the county starts out on top.

The School Board directed Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan to work with Sasse on the matter.

Morgan said Maryland has not yet made its No Child plan specific enough for the county to start working on its own plan.

"We don't know what our tasks are for sure yet," Morgan said.

Morgan said the No Child act makes some school systems nervous because it will require more work on the part of every school department and must be implemented in every school.

"It will be very test-driven," Morgan said. "Not a lot of fluff."

For example, she said, teachers will have to show how groups of students, divided in categories like race, gender and poverty levels, are performing.

"We put the needs of children first," Morgan said.

She said part of ensuring Washington County can lead the state in test results will rely heavily upon the quality and qualifications of its teachers.

"It's our job to make sure that all the teachers and all the children can work together," she said.

Sasse said some of the workload handed down through past assessments like the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) have burdened teachers with paperwork. He said many of them complain they can't get their work finished in the time they spend at the office.

"We've got to stop this madness - this constant piling on without knowing if this stuff is really working," he said.

Sasse said teachers should be involved in the process because the No Child act involves writing standards and accountability for students.

Morgan said teachers already are involved in committees like school improvement teams and citizens advisory councils.

"Why do we need a task force when we already have in place the avenues of communication?" School Board member J. Herbert Hardin asked.

Morgan said Sasse's push for teacher involvement shadows the collective bargaining rights bill, which pits teachers' unions against school boards regarding the say teachers have in the planning of curriculum, class size and school calendars.

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