Another Stab: Have Spelling Tests Gone by the Wayside in Harford County Public Schools?

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Have spelling tests gone by the wayside in Harford County Public Schools? When a Dagger reader posted a recent a comment to that effect, we contacted HCPS looking for confirmation or denial – what we got was a little of both. More on that in a moment, but first, here is the comment from “HCPS Teacher” that sparked our interest:

“I just have one thing to say about this. All the parents need to contact the board because Lynn Owen the supervisor of Language Arts in the County has taken away spelling in the elementary schools for the first time this year. Spelling AND GRAMMAR is to be taught in content. No more weekly spelling tests and words to learn. If you happen to be at a school that still has it, then KUDOS to your principal for not listening to Lynn Owen. Spelling is going to be removed from the report card as well. Parents should be outraged as are the teachers. We are dumbing down our kids and we need to take a stand. Our children need formal grammar lessons as well as spelling on a daily basis. I often wonder to myself if even Tomback himself is aware of this. Parents you need to do this. If teachers do it then our jobs are on the line. Parents and every other tax payer in this county THIS IS HOW HARFORD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS OPERATES!!!!”

Such dramatic changes in spelling instruction would be news, so we contacted Teri Kranefeld, HCPS manager of communications, for more information. Responding to the changes alleged by “HCPS Teacher”, Ms. Kranefeld wrote in e-mail:

“The elementary report card has not been altered and still reflects spelling. Ms. Owen informed schools that the mode of spelling instruction could be altered in order to move instruction forward by teaching it more effectively. The typical method of spelling instruction was strictly memorization, the new research-based philosophy is to teach spelling through a variety of activities in order to facilitate an understanding of the word and its use rather than sheer memorization. Teaching children strategies for correct spelling is very important. Rather than receiving a spelling list on Monday and tested on Friday, students should be involved in examining words from a variety of perspectives and the activities should engage students in comparing, contrasting, and discussing words. As such, spelling actually becomes more of a focus rather than being removed altogether as the comment suggests.”

Responding to a follow-up question, Kranefeld said that spelling tests are still given in some schools.

So it appears that spelling remains on the elementary school report card (for now), and some students still have spelling tests. But much like other new waves in education – Whole Language instruction for reading and Everday Math – a new philosophy for spelling instruction has arrived, meaning that that weekly spelling tests in Harford County Public Schools may soon be t-o-a-s-t.

Comments

  1. ced says

    just sad but it has been happening for years dumb down the kids and just teach what is on the standardized tests.

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  2. Bel Air Girl says

    That is true!!! At my school we were told at the beginning of this past school year that we were to no longer give spelling lists every week. NO more ABC order, writing words in sentences, etc… We were also told that spelling would eventually be taken off the report card after we asked how we were to grade spelling for report card purposes. We never had a clear explanation at all of what we had to do for spelling this year after parents kept writing letters and inquiring about why their kid did not have spelling homework and tests. From what I understood this year, we had a list of words that followed a pattern like “er” we taught a list of words with that pattern. However, for a Friday test, we were to give 3 dictated sentences using an “er” word that was not on the list. They were then graded on punctuation and grammar. Grammar which has also gone by the wayside. Nobody could tell us then what we were to assign for spelling homework, so students were practicing from a list of words that were not even going to be in any dictated sentence on the “Friday test.” We then asked how do we grade consistently with each grade level for report cards. That is when we were told that spelling was going to be dropped eventually from the report card so no spelling grade would be given.

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  3. Ryan Burbey says

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    • Sandy says

      Ryan, I understand your point, and agree about many subjects, but I feel that memorization is very important. In the english language some words just don’t make sense, the only way to spell them correctly is to memorize them. Does the word weird have and ei or an ie. Only memorization will tell the students this. I could name many more words. I have 2 girls in college and both are great students, lucky for me! But they were not prepared for spelling, grammar, or computer work in high school. It is ridiculous that my oldest daughter, who just turned 20, made it through public school without one computer class. Kids use computers plenty on their own, but she had never had a class teaching her anything about Excel. To me, I feel that this is a failure on the part of HCPS. We need them to memorize spelling. It should also be integrated into the rest of their work, but if there is any hope of them doing well on this portion of the SAT’s or ACT tests, they need to memorize spelling and grammar.

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      • Cdev says

        So your kids in college had no grasp for Grammar and Spelling. Did they have weekly spelling lists? If so that would illustrate the point. A kid can memorize a list but gives them no context for homophones and the appropriate usage. I am an example of that. I have difficulty with through and threw, then and than etc. because to me they just appeared as words on a list.

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        • Sandy says

          CDEV, no, my girls didn’t have weekly spelling tests. They were taught through stretch spelling instead. I believe spelling tests would have done them a world of good. My youngest had spelling tests and while he isn’t as good of an english student in general, his spelling and grammar are much better. My girls didn’t lose any points off of writing assignments for spelling until middle school, until then stretch spelling was the way they were taught and they weren’t even corrected. So they had no clue they were spelling words incorrectly. HCPS has been through different phases with teaching writing, my girls were in elementary school when stretch spelling was the thing to do. Somewhere between them and my son someone figured out stretch spelling was a disaster. I don’t understand why they would go back to something similar that clearly didn’t work. HCPS should learn from their mistakes instead of repeating them.

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      • Ryan Burbey says

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        • Sandy says

          I agree, but teachers in HCPS don’t meet one on one with students to correct their work in elementary school. I still stand by my original thought that the english language just needs to be memorized, some words just don’t fit the rules. We have been through stretch spelling and it didn’t work. I firmly believe in teaching phonics, but some words just need to be memorized.

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          • Cdev says

            memorized but memorized in a meaningful context. If I give you a list of ie words that fit no context it does not stick.

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          • Sandy says

            CDEV, I don’t think their is a memorable context with all words. My example of the ei in weird. Would you suggest students not memorize their multiplication tables and just “add it up” each time? For example 4×3=12 would be the same as 3+3+3+3=4. By the time they got to calculus it would take them a week and a half to do a rotation problem. Sometimes the english language doesn’t make sense and you just have to memorize it. My oldest daughter is a Deaf Studies major. She spends a lot of times memorizing signs. She is taking bartending classes for a part time job and she has made flash cards to memorize what goes into each drink. There is no context, she just has to memorize it!

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          • Cdev says

            basic math facts are one thing. but when learning a word you should have a context exploring a spelling rule is one thing but just making up words is entirley different.

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          • Sandy says

            CDEV, I don’t understand what you are saying. How would you teach spelling in context of words that do not fit the “rules”? How would you teach the spelling of weird, with the ei instead of the ie in any context other than to just memorize it? And what about tomorrow? What context would teach you that there is a double r and not a double m? I think you just have to memorize it, I’m curious about how you would teach the spelling of these words in context.

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          • Cdev says

            Teaching in context still requires memorization. What is different is that instead of the teacher giving a list on monday of words and testing on friday after requiring you to trace copy copy. You take the words from a reading material for the week. Make the spelling words part of the stuff you do in class. If you are reading about dinosaurs then the dinosaurs are your spelling words.

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          • Sandy says

            CDEV, thanks for your explanation. I can see how that would help with vocab, but not really with spelling. My son had weekly spelling tests, unlike my girls, and that is basically what he did although there was no tracing involved. Each night was a different assignment using the same words, use them in a sentence, write the definition, etc. The only one that was completely useless was when they had a list of unrelated spelling words and had to write a paragraph using each word in that paragraph. All that taught was poor writing! But you still have to memorize the spelling. If we were talking about vocab it would be a different story, but spelling is spelling and it has to be memorized.

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          • Elementary Teacher says

            I did not read all of the comments, so I apologize in advanced if I am going on and someone already said this. It is just frustrating to see all of these comments about the way kids are taught. I teach elementary school and therefore have more of an understanding of why things are done certain ways. Memorization is important for many words that don’t follow standard English rules. Therefore, I support it – to an exent. The purpose in stretch spelling is to promote their interest in writing – therefore I support it as well. Our goal isn’t to bash them for their spelling but to encourage their writing. We do meet with the children individually for writing conferences (if the teacher is doing their job) and talk about spacing, use of phonics rules in their writing, wall words, punctuation, etc. Please understand that all of these ideas work for specific reasons. There is no perfect prescription for how to teach children. It is often a mixture of many different theories and practices. A good teacher will do that.

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        • A says

          Your comments here and to other issues on Dagger are a further demonstration of your far out there ideas, a smarter then thou attitude, and is precisely why you lost your bid to become HCEA president.

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          • Ryan Burbey says

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          • K says

            Noam Chomsky, huh? When I lived in Boston, an old boyfriend recommended I read some of his works. Low and behold I found out that my ex-friend, as well as Noam, are self described socialists, bordering on marxists. MIT credentials or not, I don’t want Noam Chomsky’s thoughts any where near my kids’ minds. In my opinion a very, very bad example.

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  4. Darlington Bob says

    Its a sad day when spelling is (or is in the process of) being removed from the elementary school curriculums, and I appreciate the Dagger reporting this.

    However, may I post an observation? When an article is posted about three of the county’s high schools being named by the Washington Post as some of the best schools in America, no one gives a hoot? But when spelling is removed from elementary schools, everyone is outraged?

    Now I have been reading this website long enough to know that somebody else will comment accusing me of knowing nothing about our schools and say I am trying to take away from the issue. Let me just say now I am not, all I’m trying to point out is, it seems like people don’t like giving HCPS credit for doing something right but love to dwell on the negative

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    • Sandy says

      Darlington Bob, I understand your comment and we should give credit where credit is due. The problem is our schools are teaching to this. One of the criteria is how many students are taking AP classes. So to make themselves look better they don’t offer many higher level classes in anything except the AP format. So a student who is on an advanced math track MUST take AP calc to fullfil their 4th math credit. This is done for the benefit of HCPS’s rankings. The rankings do not take into consideration how well the children do on the AP test, just how many are taking them. No child should be forced to take an AP class. My daughter did well in precalc but did not feel comfortable taking Calc in an AP format. She gave it a try and ended up dropping the class and repeating precalc. This is a student who took Calc in 11th grade and graduated at the end of 11th grade. She is a great student but calc was a class she struggled with. She would have done well if she were able to take calc in a colleg prep format. Her teacher felt that since it was an AP class, the students should basically learn the inforation themselves, he was their to grade papers not teach the material or answer questions. I had a meeting with him and this is what he told me. HCPS doesn’t offer a College Prep calculus class because they want to get their numbers up to look better. This is unfortunate.

      Also, the reason there is an increase in HSA scores is because principals are given the decision now to allow students they feel have no chance of passing the test to not take them until another year. Of course this will cause a bump in test scores! It doesn’t mean the students are doing better, it just means that only the students who they feel will pass the test are taking the test that year. It is allowed to be put off, in my opinion, until Mr. Volrath has retired so it won’t affect him. He gets credit for increasing scores even though that isn’t really the case. Data can always be manipulated. I encourage you to look at the criteria for the rankings and find out what HCPS actually did to raise their rankings. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the students actually learning more.

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    • Not from Here says

      Just a note about that ranking, Bob, and so many of the others reported that the state brags about. A big portion of the ranking is number of AP tests taken–not how many kids pass. It reflects a higher income level than anything else.

      Quote from HCPS: “Teaching children strategies for correct spelling is very important. Rather than receiving a spelling list on Monday and tested on Friday, students should be involved in examining words from a variety of perspectives and the activities should engage students in comparing, contrasting, and discussing words.”

      If I remember correctly, when my kids went through HCPS elementary levels, the spelling lists were often related words using word parts or using what they called at the time “pals.” To me, it was a very good way to teach spelling, and both of my kids are good spellers.

      On the issue of stretch spelling, in my opinion, stretch spelling deomnstrates that a young child is hearing the word correctly and spelling it as it sounds, which is good. Teachers have children writing much earlier than I learned to write and the stretch spelling allows them to put their ideas on paper without overly criticizing the spelling. As children mature, most will make the natural transition and be able to learn to spell correctly.

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  5. Darlington Bob says

    Its a sad day when spelling is (or is in the process of) being removed from the elementary school curriculums, and I appreciate the Dagger reporting this.

    However, may I post an observation? When an article is posted about three of the county’s high schools being named by the Washington Post as some of the best schools in America, no one gives a hoot? But when spelling is removed from elementary schools, everyone is outraged?

    Now I have been reading this website long enough to know that somebody else will comment accusing me of knowing nothing about our schools and say I am trying to take away from the issue. Let me just say now I am not, all I’m trying to point out is, it seems like people don’t like giving HCPS credit for doing something right but love to dwell on the negative.

    Since no one else seems to care, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the students and teachers of BAHS, PMill, and C. Milton for all their hard work. You should be proud!

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    • O says

      These distinctions are awarded in large measure based on the numbers of students taking AP courses/exams. What is frequently not disclosed are the numbers of students that either do not take or pass the AP exam. Those figures can be eyeopening. It is easy to push students into these courses for the purpose of making your school look good at the expense of students that are not academically ready or personally motivated for the challenges of these courses. The Dagger published a very good article on this earlier this year. You should read it.

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      • Concerned Teacher says

        At my school, there is AP Psychology, but no non-AP class. There is AP Calculus, but no non-AP class. In AP History (both World and US), students who took the AP test were exempted from the final exam regardless of their score or other quarter grades. AP Government and AP Environmental Science are taught only after the students have taken and passed the regular courses of the same name.

        I believe in the AP program, and I believe it has great value in preparing students for college. However, I definitely do not believe that using the number of students taking AP classes/tests is a valid way to determine how good a school is.

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  6. K says

    Wow! The elementary school my son attends, as of this past school year, still had weekly spelling tests. And let me tell you the challenge words were uber hard. Personally, I had not seen words of this difficulty given in the past (at least to my previous elementary student). Parents must attend Board Of Education meetings on a regular basis and speak up.

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  7. Barbara says

    LOL Don’t teach spelling. However, make a big deal about sending Harford County students to spelling bees.

    Don’t teach grammar. Don’t complain about the amount of remediation Harford County students need when they enter college.

    Sometimes, before skills can be used fluently by students in their higher academic achievements, they actually need to be TAUGHT!!! Elementary school is the age appropriate setting for systematically building the language skills educated people in our society should exhibit. Why Harford County doesn’t “get” that is beyond me.

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    • Cdev says

      I don’t put much stock in remedial math and english college courses. I had a co worker who tested out HCC she had her kid who had a 780 math SAT and a 5 on the AP Calc BC and AP stats test apply to HCC and take their math placement exam. He did his best and they told him he needed remedial math. When they discloused the scores they changed their tune. Colleges use remedial non credit courses as a raquet to make money!

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      • Concerned Teacher says

        When you apply to HCC, if you already have a SAT-Math score of 550 or higher, then you don’t need to take a placement test and are able to take for-credit math courses right away. If you do not have that score, or if you did not take the SAT (or ACT), then you take the AccuPlacer test, which is a dynamic (meaning the test content gets harder as you get more questions correct), computer-based test that colleges and universities all over the country use. You are given a basic four-function calculator (think dollar store) to use. It is not a scam or a racket created to make money. It is a protection for student against failing the first college math course they take. Remember that HCC is the school that takes everyone with a HS diploma or GED. You can graduate high school not knowing how to do anything covered in a college algebra class. As such, these remediation classes are designed to teach/remind/reteach these students how to do the things they need to do in order to even have a chance at passing college-level math.

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        • Sandy says

          Concerned Teacher, I agree but wanted to add that if the student is not about to graduate high school, or older, they don’t accept their SAT scores. My daughter started taking some courses at HCC the summer between 8th and 9th grade. She had scored high enough on the SAT’s to not need the placement testing, but was required to take it because of her age. Contrary to CDEV’s story, she scored high enough to not need any remedial classes. I would think if it were just a scam then she would have been the perfect candidate to be forced into remedial classes.

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      • Not from Here says

        You keep telling that story CDev, but your co-worker’s kid didn’t pass the Accuplacer even if he did have great SATs. The people in the test center at the college are not psychic. They only have the test results in front of them. Concerned Teacher is right in her/his comments.

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        • Cdev says

          My point is that HCC or any community college gets to arbitrarily decide what is and is not passing. you take a test and they say you need remedial math so you pay for a non-credit course.

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          • justamom says

            No, HCC doesn’t “get to decide”, if the student gets far enough into the test, they will place into credit math. I understand that the student knows this after they complete the test, not after someone at HCC interprets the test. Cdev, you keep telling this story, but it doesn’t add up. Unless the kid intentionally bombed the test. As stated above, if his SAT were so good, he wouldn’t have even needed to take the test.

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          • Not from Here says

            Cdev, for writing, reading, and math, there are cut-off scores for placement into the classes that fall below the 100 level at HCC. Based on Accuplacer scores, students place into one of two levels of writing or reading or three levels of math–or into college level. If SAT scores are reported (which obviously your friend’s kid chose not to do), any score above 580 (someone else reported 550 and I am not positive) places students in college level classes based on the critical reading or math SAT score.

            The scores/cut-offs are determined by faculty members and are evaluated regularly based on student success.

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  8. Middle School Mom says

    My two cents’ worth, which is probably only worth about half that:

    My children all had weekly spelling lists. They had a schedule of assignments to be completed with these lists focusing on the meaning and usage of the words. At the end of the week, they were given a test, which was graded, as were the assignments that they had completed. Some of these lists were vocabulary taken from stories being studied in their Language Arts classes. Other times, the word lists were taken from the grammar and usage lessons being taught. All you have to do is read through the comments posted on this Site- or any Site, for that matter- to see that the distinction between ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’ is a concept that still needs to be taught!

    I am frightened that we are losing the structure within our language, which begins with the proper spelling of the words we use. I guess there is no spelling section on the elementary MSA tests, so that is not seen as a priority.

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    • Cdev says

      you nailed it on the head. teaching spelling in isolation, which is what some are talking about leads to the their, there, they’re problems. putting it in a context of a reading leads to better usage.

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  9. says

    Everyone should make everyeffort to send their children to a non-public school. My child never set foot in any public school and voila – she can spell, write, perform magnificiently in mathematics and graduate with a finance degree at the top of her class.

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  10. HarCo Mom says

    Spelling remains on the report card. However, students do not receive a spelling grade. Instead, a comment states that spelling is not formally evaluated. It seems each principal has the autonomy to make that decision. Teachers have no say. The principal makes the decision. Period.

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  11. David says

    Everyone wants improvement but no one wants things to change. One of you commented that your children had gone to school woefully unprepared from a spelling standpoint, yet you’re clutching old teaching methods with a deathgrip! The question was answered, for those of you who bothered to read beyond the headline – they’re not abandoning spelling. However, regardless of what they do IN school, here is a suggestion for you outraged parents as well as parents-to-be. If you want your children to be good spellers, get them to read. Every chance you have, shove a book at them. From the time they can open their eyes, read to them, read at them, read with them and eventually, have them read out loud to you. Encourage them to read tougher and tougher books on their own. This will guarantee a higher level of reading comprehension, spelling ability and all-around smarts. Try it – spend more time picking out books for your child and less time blowing up these message boards.

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    • Sandy says

      David, I agree and worked with my children extensively. The problem I have is that I think it hurts their comprehension to have to read so many books at the same time. Last year my daughter was reading 3 required books in her english class, all at the same time. I don’t read like this, I read a book, finish it, and go onto another book. I don’t like to be in the middle of 3 different books, I get characters and small details confused. When they are already required to read multiple books, I’m not really in fvor of adding more. This is obviously meant for older children, not younger children who can read multiple books on their level daily.

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    • Sandy says

      Woefully unprepared? Death grip? Outraged? You are clearly exaggerating or totally missed the point. This is a discussion board, therefore the discussion. If you aren’t interested in the discussion, why are you reading it?

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  12. Harfordmom says

    Insane..is there anything they bother to let the teachers actually teach anymore?? Spell check isn’t the answer..Memorization “outdated” ?!?! may not have been fun, but it worked…Spelling, vocabulary, grammar not important enough to teach or to hard for those who struggle – wow – next year..looks like home school vs. public..

    Middle school mom – you gave a great example of why it is important…I guess since Math and science can be difficult – we should start eliminating that too..we have calculators so why learn…

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  13. Ryan Burbey says

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    • high school teacher says

      Maybe this is because that is when idiotic concepts came about like open classrooms (an idea bought into by Harford Co. that turned into a disaster) and abandoning phonics for whole language based spelling curriculum. Just more education bureaucratic BS. This also coincides with the creation of the U.S. Department of Education. And let us not forget how the university/college lobby (an equivalent of the military industrial complex) successfully created the perception that if you do not go to college you are somehow a failure.

      Teaching rules in isolation does work. If you know the rules you can apply them to a new and unknown situation. If I know the rules to certain mathematics formulas I can find the answer. If I know the rules to language I can read, spell and write with accuracy.

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  14. high school teacher says

    There is nothing wrong with teaching by rote memorization. I sat at the table with my children using flash card for hours while they memorized their multiplication and division tables. There was frustration and many tears but my kids know these facts and can also figure percentages in their heads quicker then having to pull out a calculator. They can actually do long division. The same applied to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other aspects of language.

    The reality is there is nothing wrong with teaching and learning this way if put in proper context and made relevant. The poor state of language education is the result of education bureaucrats trying to justify their jobs. They continue to mess with teaching strategies that have a successful and proven track record.

    The level of vocabulary displayed by the juniors and seniors entering my classroom is very sad. Their poor vocabulary is also reflected in their equally poor reading skills. It is very difficult to raise the bar as everyone wants to do when students have little or no foundation from which to build upon. They do not have these foundations because we are too worried about hurting a child’s feelings because they are not successful on the first try.

    Our over concern with self esteem has produced significant numbers of children do not know how to deal with and overcome failure nor learned the practice of perseverance and its rewards. We continue to reduce those experiences that have the potential to hurt feeling in the name of feel good sympathies. The end result is students with poor language and math skills, who are less able to deal with life’s adversities, and a work force ill prepared for the skills necessary to compete in the global economy.

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    • Harfordmom says

      well said (written)…it is apparent you were taught correctly…I couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote…thank you for confirming these thoughts are not just mine.

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  15. EHT says

    You hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t have written this fact any better. Thanks for eloquently presenting the facts to the community at large. HCPS curriculum as it stands now, will have a negative impact on our students in the long run.

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  16. K says

    You are never wrong, when as a parent, your main concern is the well-being of your children. If only more of us really took the time and energy to question what is being taught. We certainly have the right to look at curricula and ask questions as to how it’s being transferred to our kids’ brains. This all takes time and initiative. It begins at the local BOE and the HCPS headquarters. The instructions trickle down to the principals, assistant principals, department heads, then the individual classroom teachers.

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  17. justamom says

    Spelling and grammar are going down the same path as multiplication tables in Harford County. My kids were told in Elementary school that they didn’t need to memorize multiplication tables since they could use calculators. As a former engineer this was heresy! When they got to high school they realized that calculators can’t solve every math problem, and that those pesky multiplication tables come in handy. You can only use calculators on some parts of the SAT and many colleges don’t allow them. HCPS has raised a generation of mathematically illiterate children, I guess they are going to complete the job now. Fortunately, the Catholic schools still provide a very good education that includes grammar, vocabulary, and solid math. That’s why we made the switch out of public schools.

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  18. Harfordmom says

    I never imagined I’d be considering home schooling or private school…however, I must say lately I am..The real sad part is that I don’t believe this is just a HCPS issue..I just came back from NC from an area with some of “the best schools in the state” and my friend’s 4th grader spells terribly. Even the child is upset…her mom keeps telling her how bad her spelling is but never gets marked wrong in school..when the child asked the teacher why that was the teacher said it wasn’t on the EOG’s (end of grade)test (which gets rammed down their throat and practiced 3 times a year) which is the equivalent to our standardized tests..she uses a calculator for everything..this child is also “honor roll” when the mom asked how this could be since she couldn’t do basic math on her own and her grammar and spelling were terrible – the teacher said “she does well on the EOG’s and that’s what we teach so she’s fine, don’t worry….I see this as a national problem thanks to No child left behind…now they’ll all be left behind..guess we’ll have no doctors, engineers, teachers, etc..produced here in the US very shortly..

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  19. Harfordmom says

    I have loved the K and 1st grade teachers my son has had while at a HCPS by the way.
    I forgot to mention when I arrived back in MD I went to a friends party where a HCPS teacher was also at. I mentioned my above story to her. I point blank asked “Is spelling/grammar taught anymore” she hesitated and said yes, but went on to say it’s hard with kids with cells phones texting things like B4 so the kids don’t think it’s important. I began to wonder who was running the class room. (she teaches 1st grade also and I was shocked kids had cell phones in the 1st grade) – but that is another story. She said next year writing will be focused more…but seemed more alarmed that the teacher in NC my friend spoke with was so honest with her answer…since this HCPS teacher was caught off guard I’m assuming…can someone please answer me this..WHY is spelling, vocabulary and grammar not important enough? How do you expect to teach writing without them? and for the heck of it..why do kids in 1st grade have cell phones – or elementary school for that matter?? if you don’t know where your 7 or 8 yr old are – you have big problems…

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    • joe stockholm says

      Well becareful thinking private schools are better– I have found public school children out perform private school children on standardized tests(SAT, etc) — just because you are paying does not make it a better school…ask around

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    • Ryan Burbey says

      It is not that spelling, vocabulary or grammar are not taught. They are not taught in isolation. These skills are taught through implicit, in-context instruction. Teaching writing does mean teaching spelling, grammar and vocabulary but it is more effectively accomplished through comparative analysis. Students are first encouraged to present their ideas. Then they are engaged in cooperative activities which are designed to help them identify and remediate mistakes. Likewise, students are encouraged to use new more complex vocabulary rather than the same “tired” words with which they are more comfortable. This is all based on language acquisition studies and brain studies. It may not hold the nostalgia of Dick & Jane, or the weekly spelling quiz but it actually works.

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  20. Harfordmom says

    I agree with you 100% which is why I hadn’t really thought of going to a private school. I’m more concerned with learning as a whole, instead of just test scores. I’ve only begun to consider them because I am hearing some still teach the basics well. I am not committing to them and still do not believe they’re the answer to everything. I’ve always believed if someone is paying a lot of money to go to a private school, that school will make it seem the child is doing great, so the parents pay for the next year..so the results are simply skewed and not real….just a thought, not sure.

    I’m simply horrified at education in general. I’ve been out of school for 25 yrs and am just learning the “new system” with a 1st grader..my entire family tree prior to me were educators (teachers, principals, superintendents,) who I’m sure would be rolling in their graves if they knew what constituted education now.

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    • A Citizen says

      I would agree with Joe. I teach in HCPS and have found that when we get students who transfer from private schools, they are almost always behind in a few key areas. Yes, their basic spelling and grammar and usually better, as are their rote memorization of math skills. However, their critical thinking and analysis skills are usually much, much weaker because (and this is a generalization from my own experiences) basic comprehension has been emphasized. Students have a hard time when there is no “right” answer to a question. When they have to infer or use a body of evidence to determine an answer, they struggle. In real life, the ability to think critically is what is going to make them successful. HarfordMom you seem very edcuated and concerned about your child’s progress so I am sure you can fill in some of the gaps your child may have in spelling, grammar, etc. No matter which route a parent chooses, they are still their child’s first teacher and it seems you really understand that.

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      • high school teacher says

        Unfortunately what we are too often left with are kids who have the ability to think critically but can’t do anything about it because they are unable to communicate effectively in written form, or they can’t solve a problem mathematically without a sophisticated calculator because they either never learned how a formula works or the rationale behind the formula in the first place.

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        • A Citizen says

          High School Teacher-

          Please do not get me wrong. I fully support teaching the basics of writing, spelling, and math facts. I think the public school system (I won’t say teachers because most agree but have no control over the curriculum) is failing at that. I was just trying to point out that private schools are not the panacea either and may have their own drawbacks.

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    • Another mom says

      Harfordmom,
      Not all private schools fall into this category. Trinity Lutheran located on rt 7 happens to be a wonderful school. My 4th grader consistently scores well into the high school level in the majority of classes. The teaching there is phenomenal and it shows when he makes the distinguished honor roll time and time again. Not to mention they still use multiplication tables and teach spelling/grammer. If you’re considering private school please don’t lump all into the category of just wanting money.

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      • Harfordmom says

        Another Mom, Please understand I didn’t mean to disrespect private school’s or lump them all together. My apologies if that’s how it came across. For those very reasons you send your child there is the very reasons I am considering it. It was just a thought/fear I had and am quite aware some schools are better than others (private or public). I do apologize if I came across prejudiced against private schools in general. I never thought I had the money for them so I simply never considered them. Now I feel I can’t afford not to consider them. Since this is unfamiliar territory, I’m trying to reach out to learn more, that’s all.

        Jeff – I agree with you and hope the wake up call to all comes soon.

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        • Another mom says

          Harfordmom,
          I didn’t take offense or think it came across as prejudiced. Was just letting you know about the great school. If you happen to visit and still feel that way about private schools then it’s understandable. As far as tuition… it can get a little pricey but I make the sacrifices I need to and I understand not everybody is able to. I’m not sure how young your kid(s) is and, I don’t know you’re backround, but if you are military or government consider checking out NACCRRA. May help deflect some costs as long as the children are young enough.

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          • Harfordmom says

            From one mom to “another mom” – Thank you. I believe I will give them a visit and begin to explore. Thank you again.

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  21. Jeff says

    How sad public education has become. We are falling so far behind the rest of the world. Our graduates cannot spell, write, do math without calculators or express themselves in an articulate manner. History, forget it!? Public school children cannot have a debate about their own history! They cannot even explain how their system of government works. You are lucky if they can find Maryland on a US map! When will we wake up!? I sent my children to a private school…and yes…they outshine so many of our public school graduates. I am happy for my children but sad that I had to PAY for them to receive a strong, basic education. No one should have to do this! My taxes support our local schools…I shouldn’t have had to sacrifice more money in order for them to have a successful education. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

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    • David A. Porter says

      Often, the educational development of the child is not the result of the public education they receive, but the involvement of the parents in the child’s learning process. What good does it do to put your child into a public school if their mother feels that it is unnecessary to read to them? Or if she fails to value the importance of educated adults in her life as well as the lives of her children? Children learn from what they see. This is true of spelling, reading, math as well as values. If you as a parent do not value education, don’t expect your prodigy to some day be running a Fortune 500 company.

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  22. perplexed says

    All of this makes me realize how backwards Harford County is !!! Not inovative !!!

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