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What’s the Score?

Grading the Bay’s health and Maryland’s ­congressional delegation

Sister Ignatius enters her final week at Bay Theatre Company, but Sisters Alphonse, Clotilda and Extrema cast an eternal shadow in my memory. I suspect it’s the image of numbers inked in their neat hands that makes me to this day averse to report cards.
    My grades were pretty good, in the 90s (except in arithmetic). But what we endured to earn those grades, 50 of us in a single classroom presided over by a nun whose patience had long since ended!
    From our own experience or our children’s, who among us doesn’t cringe at a report card’s commentary on what we have yet to achieve?
    Look at Chesapeake Bay reports and score cards, as we do this week, and there’s plenty to cringe at.
    The State of the Bay is a D, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It’s complex, according to the Bay Barometer of the Chesapeake Bay Program. And it’s soon to be measured again, by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, whose grade last year was D+.
    Rivers get report cards, too: The West/Rhode Riverkeeper will soon be releasing one. The Anacostia, Chester, Choptank, Miles and Wye rivers have theirs. So does the Potomac.
    Making sense of it all is a challenge.
    Inspired by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Bay Barometer, which reports on advances as well as shortcomings, we decided to look at what it would take to raise the score of just one indicator.
    Shad — one of spring’s earliest arrivals to the Bay — is our choice.
    The founding fish that fed our forbearers is now a failing fish, near the very bottom of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s State of the Bay report.
    The steps necessary for its recovery are daunting. But they’re specific, achievable and being climbed right now.
    Read all about it — and a little about Bay scorecards — in this week’s paired features: Shad, Our Failing Fish and Reporting on Chesapeake Report Cards.
    If you like this approach, let me know, and we’ll continue reporting on how to raise the grades on other Bay health indicators.
In Grading Congress, F to One Scorer Is A to Another
    How’d your senator and representatives do on your latest report card?
    Depends on who’s doing the scoring.
    On one newly released 2012 scorecard, eight of our 10 Maryland representatives in Congress earn failing grades.
    On another, those eight failures soar to A’s and one C.
    Naturally, the two F’s on one card become A’s on the other. And vice versa.
    Americans for Prosperity-Maryland ranked members of Congress on their votes for economic freedom.
    On that scorecard, Andy Harris scores an A and since-unseated Roscoe Bartlett a B. Both are Republicans. Maryland’s eight Democrats in Congress earn high scores of D (Sen. Barbara Mikulski) and lows of D- (Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards, Chris Van Hollen, Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes.
    One of the bills Americans for Prosperity graded for would have stopped the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Voting to preempt its authority earned an A.
    Maryland League of Conservation Voters ranked members of Congress on their votes on “defending against the U.S. House of Representatives’ unprecedented assault on our nation’s environmental and public health safeguards.”
    On that scorecard, Harris and Bartlett both earn F’s, Harris at 6 percent and Bartlett at a much higher 28.
    Earning 89 percent to 100 percent are, from the top down, Mikulski and Cardin, Edwards, Sarbanes, Hoyer, Van Hollen and Cummings. Ruppersberger is low man on the list at 71 percent.
    The Conservation Voters’ scorecard includes 14 Senate votes and, for the second consecutive year, a record 35 House votes, on issues ranging from public health protections to clean energy to land and wildlife conservation.

A Modest Proposal
    Except for report cards, we Americans love to keep score — especially when what’s being scored is a competition. I’d like to see our Chesapeake Bay and river report cards adopt that principle. Add conflict and drama, and we’d read these reports as avidly as we do sports scores.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; [email protected]