Letter to the Editor

November 07, 2009
(Page 2 of 2)

What is most troubling about the SAT results, though, is that despite the addition of millions of dollars to the school budget, there has been no improvement in this area in the past 10 years. A comparison of SAT results for Washington County for 2009 vs. 1999 is shown in the first table at right.

In addition to the drop in the scores over the past 10 years, it is also of concern that the percentage of seniors taking the SAT in WCPS dropped. In 1999, 53 percent of the seniors took the SAT as opposed to less than 50 percent in 2009.

This 38-point drop in scores and reduction in the participation rate can't be blamed on a lack of funding either. The second table at right compares operating expenses for WCPS for 2009 versus 1999.

So even with the addition of $116 million to the annual operating budget, or an additional $5,000 for each and every student in the school system, this administration has failed to achieve any positive results in this area. They will undoubtedly try and say that the tests were different for these years and that the results can't be compared. If that was the case, though, then the results for Maryland would also be the same for this comparison, but they are not. While Washington County's participation rate fell from 53 percent to 50 percent, the participation rate in the SATs for Maryland actually increased during this time frame from 65 percent to 69 percent. Even with this significant rise in the participation rate for Maryland, its overall scores fell by only 16 points, less than half the drop that Washington County experienced.


Now, even with all of this information at its disposal, The Herald-Mail somehow decided to produce an unsigned editorial that, among other things, gives this assessment of the progress of the school system: "And the administration deserves praise as well, for taking an adequate school system and ratcheting up the expectations through initiatives that, while not universally popular, are unquestionably delivering results for the students of Washington County." It's very difficult to understand how anyone with any understanding of the performance of this school system could come to this conclusion. Without even leaving their desks, The Herald-Mail staff could have searched their own archives on the topic of the SATs. What they would have found is that this administration has offered the same excuses year after year for poor scores and the low number of students taking the test. They would have also found that the administration always had a plan ready to go to improve the results, but the plans never succeeded. Nobody ever asked why the plan from the previous year didn't succeed, regardless of the expense. So perhaps the unsigned editorialist at The Herald-Mail could explain how the addition of $116 million in operating expenses and the resulting lower SAT scores and a lower percentage of students taking the test are "unquestionably delivering results."

In conclusion, I have two children in the school system, and in general, I have been very pleased with the teachers and school support staff that they have had. The level of dedication, passion and commitment on the part of these people is truly world class. Unfortunately, they do not establish the curriculum, they just follow orders. The poor SAT results overall appear to be more attributable to the lack of a challenging curriculum, and that is the responsibility of the administration. With a yearlong, single-minded focus on the standardized testing, it would appear that this administration has not established a successful plan to properly educate the students once they have achieved the low goals established by the MSA/HSA tests. What is really ironic about this whole situation, though, is that the majority of the additional $116 million that was given to WCPS was under a program called "Bridge to Excellence." The SAT results for last year show that this money more realistically resulted in a "Bridge to Nowhere" for the college-bound hopefuls of Washington County Public Schools.

Bob Brady

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