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Letters to the editor

October 04, 2006

Letter-writers don't always have facts straight on schools



To the editor:

Given recent inaccuracies in letters to the editor regarding statistics about the graduates of the Washington County Public Schools, please allow me to set the record straight. First, here are some facts, as reported by the Maryland State Department of Education in the Maryland Report Card, available at www.mdreportcard.org.

Of the more than 1,300 graduates of 2005, 63.1 percent had completed coursework to prepare them for entry into the University System of Maryland; 29.7 percent completed Career and Technology Education Program requirements; 16.9 percent completed both USM and CTE requirements and 22.7 percent completed a rigorous high school program as defined by the Maryland State Department of Education. These data for the class of 2006 are currently being compiled and will be reported on the MSDE Web site in the coming months.

The Maryland State Department of Education compiles statistics regarding students' post-secondary plans. Of the WCPS class of 2005, 74 percent planned to attend either a two- or four-year college as either full-time or part-time students or attend a specialized training school; 10.9 percent planned to enter the workforce; 3.9 percent planned to enter the military; 4.9 percent planned to enter employment related to their high school program of study and 6.3 percent did not indicate their plans. Statistics for the Class of 2006 will be posted when they are available.

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For 2006, WCPS posted a 90.48 percent graduation rate, down slightly from the 2005 graduation rate of 91.28 percent.

Writers who submit letters to the editor containing statistics about WCPS graduates should cite the sources of those statistics so that appropriate interpretations of the data made be made. Specifically, writers who cite the Maryland Higher Education Commission's Student Outcomes and Achievement Report (SOAR) should include the data limitations regarding interpretation of these data that are described within the report's opening sections:

The report only captures information from students who attend Maryland institutions of higher education who took either the SAT or ACT. A significant portion of WCPS graduates go out-of-state as freshmen and only about half of WCPS graduates take either the SAT or ACT. These graduates are left out of the report entirely. MHEC itself reports that one-third of graduates statewide are not represented in the data.

The Western Maryland counties of Garrett, Allegany and Washington are reported together in many of the categories. To draw conclusions regarding one county's performance would be inappropriate.

Since the pool of students represented in the SOAR data is not representative of a school system's entire graduating class, statistics regarding remediation rates can be misleading.

The SOAR data lags at least two years behind. The latest SOAR data report, released in 2005, includes statistics gathered by MHEC on the class of 2002 who attended Maryland colleges or universities as freshmen in 2002-2003.

Without citing data sources or including information about data limitations, statistics can be inappropriately represented to support political or other positions. In addition, when comparing groups of students, writers should take care to compare data drawn from the same reported graduating class.

Let the readers beware.

Carol Mowen
Public Information Officer
Washington County Public Schools




GOP's display of Donoghue's fundraiser invitation was a dirty trick



To the editor:

I am a registered Democratic voter in Hagerstown and I was angered by the "dirty trick" that the Washington County Republican Central Committee pulled last week, by showing an invitation to a fundraiser for Del. John Donoghue.

Not only did the actions of the Republican Central Committee anger me, but so did the news poll asking, "How much would you spend on breakfast to meet your state delegate?" as published by this paper on the front page.

Am I to assume that this is fair and balanced reporting? How many other local politicians hold fundraisers in and out of Washington County to help get elected? How many of our current Republican state delegates and state senators hold meetings and luncheons with lobbyists in Annapolis?

I would challenge Dels. Bob McKee, Chris Shank and LeRoy Myers, as well as state Sen. Don Munson, to pledge that they will never hold a meeting, luncheon or fundraising event where lobbyists are in attendance.

As far as Donoghue, he has served the people of Hagerstown well as our representative in Annapolis. Donog-hue serves the people of a county that has a strong Republican hold on it, and has taken Washington County voters for granted too long.

In the very same article blasting Donoghue, The Herald-Mail notes that Republican challenger Paul Muldowney has outraised Del. Donoghue 5-to-1, and somehow fails to mention that while Paul Muldowney served in Annapolis he too accepted campaign contributions from political action committees representing business.

Liz Shrader
Hagerstown

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