- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

BALTIMORE (AP) — An unorthodox and much-criticized language-arts curriculum will be replaced in 23 traditional middle schools, the chief executive of Baltimore schools has announced.

The school system will continue to use some of the books, generally written by minority authors, that it purchased under the Studio Course, schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland said Tuesday.

But the school system will take steps to ensure that children are picking books appropriate for their reading levels.

The schools will focus on teaching children the subject matter that they must master to pass the state’s annual standardized tests, which will be administered next month.

Until then, schools will incorporate into the Studio curriculum test-preparation lessons. After the tests are finished, the focus will move to the curriculum centered on the state standards.

Studio has been criticized for de-emphasizing basic skills and using teen magazines to fuel interest in reading.

Charles Dugger, a language-arts teacher at Benjamin Franklin Junior High School, told the school board Tuesday night about a magazine used in his class that asked on the cover, “Do you want to be skanky or sexy?”

The school system spent at least $2 million to implement Studio, which aims to improve children’s reading and writing abilities.

The curriculum has a record in only one other city, Denver, where test scores have not risen.

Still, officials in Baltimore said the dismal scores in their middle schools made them want to try something new.

According to a memo sent Tuesday to school system administrators by Linda Chinnia, Mrs. Copeland’s chief academic officer, changes in the curriculum will begin in April and be implemented fully in the fall after the adoption of a new language-arts textbook.

Mrs. Copeland said the system will examine how it teaches language arts in middle and high schools.

She said her staff will work with the state managers sent by a federal judge to oversee all school system departments affecting special education, including instruction.

Mrs. Copeland said they will study whether to keep any other aspects of Studio besides certain reading materials purchased for classroom libraries.

Studio requires every classroom to have a library of 800 to 1,000 books; the review panel found no classrooms with that many books.

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