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School Board Approves Eliminating Middle School Reading Classes

Proposal to unify school schedules, tweak content offerings passes on a 5-3 vote.

After weeks of controversy, the Howard County Board of Education late Thursday voted 5-3 to pass a proposed middle school program that eliminates formal reading classes in favor of project-based modules for some students and seminars and intervention programs for others.

Three years of required reading instruction will be reduced to two quarters of instruction under the board's decision.

The meeting began amid a side dispute in which one member asked to be allowed to participate electronically, sparking a heated exchange toward the end of the meeting.

Brian Meshkin, who participated in the meeting by phone from California, changed his opposing vote of two weeks ago to one of support, joining board Chairwoman Sandy French, Vice Chairman Frank Aquinio and members Janet Siddiqui and Ellen Giles.

He voted with the majority after accusing some members of allowing him to participate in the meeting via telephone only because they thought he would vote in favor of the proposal.

French denied Meshkin's accusation and said she at no time asked Meshkin how he intended to vote, nor did anyone else share with her any suggestions of how he planned to vote.

Members Allen Dyer and Cindy Vaillancourt and student member Tomi Williams voted against the proposal.

As approved, the middle school program will fill many needs, school administrators maintained.

By instituting a seven, 50-minute period schedule, all 19 Howard County middle schools will run on the same schedule, as opposed to the hodgepodge of schedules now found across the system.

To better align with the impending Common Core State Standards, physical education class time will be increased; world language instruction will be added to the sixth-grade curriculum and, because of the five-minute time increase in class periods, instructional time in core subjects will be significantly increased over the school year.

One casualty, as many educators consider it, of the proposal, is the middle school program's dedicated reading class.

The time added to physical education classes and the time needed for the new world language program had to come from somewhere, and school officials cut the only thing that could reasonably be cut, Howard County education Association President Paul Lemle said.

The association, though content with compromises that have been worked out over the past several weeks, particularly in regard to preserving negotiated teacher planning periods, remained opposed to the elimination of the dedicated reading classes.

Lemle said he was surprised and disappointed by the vote, and is worried about this year's fifth-graders who are "OK" readers now.

He is concerned about a school board that can "just throw away 10 quarters — two and a half years — of reading instruction when no one knows the effects of that decision.

"There will be no mulligan for next year's sixth-graders," Lemle said after the meeting. "I feel like I was the only honest guy in that room tonight."


Ann Delacy March 03, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Adam, in order for HCPSS to continue to rank high in the state of Maryland, they must focus on teaching to State and Federal mandidated tests. Instead of being innovative or setting the standards for education, this BOE has decided to march lock-step with their central office masters. It is truly time for a change. IF you ask for the data on a particular program, don't hold your breath waiting for an answer. It is time to put a person who has actually been a teacher in HCPSS and knows how th system operates on the BOE. What we have now are lawyers, a doctor, people in business and a person who taught many years ago in another county.
Jack March 03, 2012 at 05:59 PM
You need to look at these so called gym class. It would be in your childs best interest to take this in a 3 week summer school class befor they enter the 9nth grade. Not only is the length of time inadequate, the quality is rock bottom. Actually if you are a parent it is your best interest to forget any propaganda fed by the hcpss or Howard county government and take an in depth look at what your children are being subjected to under the pretense of education. Ann, teaching to the test or no longer educating our children is a problem beyond anything a new parent could comprehend. I pitty the unsuspecting parent.
Ann Delacy March 04, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Jack, I risk being labeled as having an ax to grin by exposing the system. The more I learn (and I know a lot) the more sickened I have become. There is absolutely zero transparency. The Public Information Department is really a PR department for the Central Office. If you have a real concern, it is best to go to Rose Dennison, the Ombudsman.
Jack March 04, 2012 at 05:34 AM
As much as I promoted Rose Dennison, the Ombudsman and her office it is probably not where anyone wants to go. Twice every person who sought this help were publicly outed. Relationships between the Ombudsman's office and the hcpss make this nothing more then a tool for appeasement. We need an independent Office of the Ombudsman if we are going to see any change. Ann, you seem to have a dilemma. You were once part of the system. I do not know you and that is not enough for me to judge you. Hopefuly you have always spoke out. Right now very few candidates are speaking out and I have respect for the ones who choose to engage the public. Continue to speak out .
Ann Delacy March 04, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Jack, I was administratively transferred from Owen Brown MS in 2002 for reporting on the principal to Dr. Cousin. I later discovered that the principal, Linda Carter, who was hired by HCPSS from Baltimore City because she was great at raising test scores, was the same person who supplied the bogus test scores for Michelle Rhee's advancement. Believe me, there is even more to that story.

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