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Letters to the Editor

August 15, 2010

Only thing world class about WCPS is spending increases



To the editor:

"But what does it mean?" The Herald-Mail asks in its 2,248-word story on school testing results in the Sunday, July 25, edition.

With The Herald-Mail avoiding any cause-and-effect reporting, it might not mean anything. All these words, words, words were written with no perspective on how they relate to the mission of Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) - producing job- and college-ready graduates to contribute to the economic development of our community.

Let me set the record straight about what was not mentioned.

Michael Markoe, assistant superintendent for student and staff support, makes it sound like six years of data on intervention and individualized instructional plans, school restructuring, $5,000 teacher pay increase, and increased salary and benefits for central office staff have not already occurred. Such data have been available since at least 2004, when I demonstrated the use of ABACUS (the prototype of Performance Matters) to the Board of Education, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan and her head of student instruction.

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Teachers also will have access to individual students' assessment scores, Morgan said. Again, this has been available since 2004, yet The Herald-Mail, through Morgan, makes it sound like it is now accessible for the first time. Morgan further preaches: "Any good teacher has always used assessments to inform their instruction, and are expected to do so." Why does Morgan use the word "inform" instead of "improve" their ability to teach? More importantly, why does she leave out quantifiable results for the Teacher Training Center for Performance, a major expenditure to help both new and seasoned teachers be more effective? And quantifiable results for Student Achievement Specialists on which $30 million is being spent?

Since 19 percent of the schools "failed to meet minimum proficiency standards," what strategies has the superintendent been applying since 2003 (start of No Child Left Behind testing and accountability)? What instructional changes will be made? Inquiring minds want to know - in print.

According to Jeremy Jakoby, supervisor of testing and accountability: Teachers can see not only how well a student performed on the MSA math and reading tests, but how well they performed in specific areas, but they will not be able to see how well students did on a specific problem.

But ABACUS, as a teacher instructional aid, can already see how well a student understands a concept. Why wouldn't Morgan test and compare how her teachers measure up on teaching voluntary state curriculum concepts and requirements?

Finally, Morgan assures: Teacher evaluations haven't been tied to student performance in general, but that will change. In 2007, I suggested to a salary-and-benefits negotiator for the Washington County Teachers Association union, a method by which teacher pay could be linked to student performance and was told that would "never happen."

WCPS has not, in a world-class manner, consistently met or exceeded reading and math goals for grades three through eight, much less SAT and Advanced Placement courses. But the spending increases have been world class.

Tom Janus
Hagerstown




Cartoon on same-sex marriages was in poor taste



To the editor:

On Sunday, Aug. 8, I picked up The Herald-Mail. When I got home, I was infuriated at the cartoon at the bottom of the Opinion page that was titled "California's ban on same-sex marriage overturned ..." which showed same sex "couples" embracing each other and apparently rejoicing over the California judges overturning of the ban, which as I understand the citizens of California had voted to initiate.

It is obvious to anyone reading the captions in each drawing that the cartoonist was trying to convey the message to readers that the judge's decision apparently had not brought about any biblical plagues such as plagues of locusts or rivers turning to blood. These would suggest that there would be a judgment from God that would have followed the decision if gay marriage was truly a bad thing.

I am sure the person or people responsible for this cartoon had no expectation of such events occurring, but their main point was to belittle Christian morals that the Bible teaches, and I find it highly offensive to see this use of the word of God in such a disrespectful manner. To most of us, we find the homosexual lifestyle to be a perversion of the love that God wanted man and woman to share. Like most things, we take what God intended and twist to suit our own desires.

Remember that judgment from God was prolonged more than 1,500 years before the flood destroyed all but Noah and seven of his family, and it took 40 years for all of the older Israelites to die off before their children were able to go to the Promised Land.

We might not be plagued by locusts, but we might be seeing a plague of poor judgment, both in the courts and in this newspaper.

Randy Hepfer
Chambersburg, Pa.




Kump backs up his words with actions



To the editor:

As a seven-year resident of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, I first noted the name Larry Kump in local newspaper letters to the editor, which I found on point and inspirational.

Then a few years ago, when I met Larry in person, I found an intelligent, insightful and often humorous individual who does not hesitate to speak out about what is right, backing up what he says with facts. And then, he goes beyond his words and follows up with his actions.

I am proud of him for being willing to accept the challenge of running for, and hopefully serving, in the House of Delegates for the residents of his district and all of West Virginia.

Larry Stamps
Martinsburg, W.Va.

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