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Letter to the Editor

August 09, 2010

The time has come for charity to begin at home



To the editor:

This letter is in reference to The Herald-Mail article on Aug. 3, "BOE, administrators try to find cause of disappointing MSA results."

Several weeks ago, Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Betty Morgan voiced her support for tying teacher pay to performance. She stated in The Herald-Mail article that once the teachers understood, they would jump on board. Yet, poor teacher performance was not given as a reason for the drop in MSA results. So as test results drop, is the plan to tell teachers that their pay is being affected due to snow, H1N1 and the poor economy?

Every given "possible cause" supports not tying teacher pay to performance as it is being currently presented. Throughout the whole article, not one person stated it was poor teacher performance. How do you say in one breath you believe teachers pay should be tied to test scores, and in another look at every other possible cause - except teachers?

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Do not misunderstand me, I am all for teacher accountability. But it is important that is it fair and equitable. The school system clearly shows an abundance of possible causes that can affect scores that are above and beyond teachers' control.

I also do not agree with Ruth Callaham's statement about all of our schools being equally good. All of our schools are not equally good. The current test scores show that. All of our schools were affected by either snow, sickness or economy, and yet there were schools that still excelled while some did not. The economy didn't seem to have any effect last year, when we were in the same recession and the Washington County jobless rate was just about the same as it is today.

All of our schools met proficiency standards. During the redistricting, parents were using actual scores for comparison, and they were simply dismissed. Why? Because they were making it painfully obvious that all of our schools are not equally good. We have some schools with inferior facilities, and others that have scored poorly for years. It's time to just admit that we have some schools that need help, and help them. This is not about calling out a group of teachers or demeaning a certain group of students, because if you have to turn it into that, you are missing the point.

Our teachers work hard. This is about getting in there and and getting the job done. We cannot just discuss our MSA scores when we do well, and then say we are being judged when we are not. Mike Markoe was spot-on when he said we have to "own" our results.

It is amazing how we are pushing out press releases when a magazine that has nothing to do with education "ranks" us well, and then scramble for causes when a real test ranks us not so well. If we don't talk about it, we can't fix it and cautioning to be careful when discussing any test results only adds to the lack of transparency.

Dottie Gruhler
Smithsburg

Editor's note: Gruhler is a candidate for Washington County Board of Education.

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