Letters To The Editor
Eugenia Froedge Toma's well-written Commentary (Jan. 19) should provide secondary- school English students ample material for examining the techniques of propaganda. Beyond that, it appears to be but another sample of academic prostitution financed by the tax-exempt Heritage Foundation (though actually financed by taxpayers at the expense of the many tax-supported social programs that we do hold desirable).
Toma necessarily ignores the essential circumstances that invalidate her arguments and falsify her conclusions: That much of the educational programming that has come to serve so well the needs of individual children and youths over this recent period has come to exist as a direct result of federal and state intervention in the face of opposition by individual school districts.
As do most local school administrators, I complain about all the regulations and all the paperwork.
At the same time, I know that it is only because of federal and state pressure and dollars that thousands of students have access to the demontrated benefits of Title I instruction, of special-education instruction, and of greatly reduced racial discrimination in education, to cite but a few examples.
Toma and the Heritage Foundation choose to ignore the demonstrated inability of local schools to compete effectively for local tax dollars and thus to secure the resources necessary for that "quality education so vital for a better future for all."
Toma's call for return to "competition" in the provision of schooling is really a call for ill-educating the ghetto youths who must compete for jobs against their well-educated suburban age-mates, a call for a return to race and class segregation by schools, a call for returning the mentally and physically handicapped to the closets of America.
The Heritage Foundation's "Agenda for Progress" deserves reading. It should be reviewed by publications such as Education Week. However, Toma's biased analyses and irrational "logic" do not deserve the space you gave it.
Eldon Breazier Curriculum Coordinator Unified School District 331 Kingman, Kan.
The future of urban education lies in the hands of the legislative funders, the school board members, and the superintendents of schools. The latter two have identified the first priority of urban education as developing effective schools in which all pupils are learning.
One top-down decision being made is to move as much decision-making as possible to the field and school staff. School and subdistrict adminstrators are accountable for the quality of education in their schools. Certain decisions, however, must be on a school district level. For instance, the institution of a uniform discipline code; setting of promotion and graduation standards and their reporting; and the adoption of a management, evaluation, and accountability program for all staff.
Each school can plan portions of its budget outside the normal program of instruction that include state mandates. For example, discretionary, esea Title I, special allocation, and incentive program (for example, anti-vandalism, energy-conservation) funds can be allocated to school sites. Using these funds, principals and teachers, after conducting a needs assessment that includes community and sometimes student input, can develop programs that meet local school needs.
Central administration can identify critical factors in which school efforts can result in positive changes. On the basis of compensatory education evaluations in Chicago, the following factors that are critical to improving urban schools have been identified:
Time on task. The amount of engaged learning time a student spends actually involved in meaningful learning activities. Achievement is enhanced not only by the quantity of time spent but also by the quality of the structured learning environment; that is, a tightly planned definitive program of instruction balanced to include all areas. A rational homework policy can substantially increase academic time on task.
Attitude. Educators working with the urban poor--with any children--need a positive sense of mission/identification with their school situation. They must believe that their students can learn and that they will teach them. Staff must work in a problem-solving setting, where problems are identified and resolved. Many successful administrators provide for problem identification and resolution through a group process/in-service staff development mode for their teachers. This creates a sense of ownership and thus improves morale.
Leadership. Leadership brings together the various components of the effective program/effective school. Leaders reinforce their teachers in a positive manner; they assist teachers in solving problems when they occur; and they support staff professional needs through planned in-service sessions. They positively influence behavior by their commitment, energy, devotion to the tasks at hand, philosophy, expectations, and standards. Effective leaders stress a problem-solving and nonpunitive approach and set a positive motivational tone. Principals can ensure that teachers spend time on task and can preclude/eliminate classroom interruptions. Modeling behavior is important. What principals do speaks louder than what they say.
Involvement of significant others. The effect of parental involvement cannot be underestimated. When children come to school with a sense of self-worth, a good night's sleep, and supervised homework, and have someone at home who loves them and shows an interest in their school work, achievement increases. Parents and significant others who lend their support to school activities tend to become more actively involved in their children's education. Parents, community members, and adult volunteers can reduce the adult/child ratio and potentially benefit all children. The schools can require that parents come to pick up report cards. This simple action permits and begins the parent/teacher interaction and dialogue in urban education.
In summary, people working together make the critical difference, and students can learn. In almost every single Chicago Title I program, some classroom groups are achieving one or more years of growth for each year of participation. Effective programs/effective schools have effective people working in them. Logical relationships exist between the above factors; they are interrelated and interdependent. If any factor is missing, it is less likely that the program/school will be effective. Effective program/schools will result from explicit improvement efforts both top down and bottom up.
Siegfried G. Mueller Administrator, Office of Equal Educational Opportunity Chicago Public Schools
Your newspaper has been appearing in my mailbox from time to time recently. At first, the articles appeared to be balanced and informative. Your Jan. 12 issue, however, is disappointing.
The front-page article on Social Security cuts describes last summer's budget cuts as "frantic." A first-year journalism student is taught that such adjectives have no place in a news story. Pure editorializing on the writer's part.
Another example of the same type is found on page 3 in an article entitled "Christian-School Case in Iowa Settled Out of Court." The last paragraph reads, "And in a pre-session poll of Iowa legislators by United Press International, only about one-third of those responding said they would favor changing the state laws governing parochial and private schools." The use of the word "only" is misleading. In issues relating to education, particularly private Christian-school education, a positive response from over one-third of the respondents is very significant. Whether your writer feels it is or not has no place in objective reporting. The article on creation science ("Creationism: The Judge Decided the Case, Not the Debate") is simply poorly researched and misleading. Your writer informs us the creationism isn't science, but evolution is. The scientific case for creation was given no space in the article.
The only conclusion from the article that I can draw is that the writer doesn't understand the issue. He clearly points out the evolution side, but drifts into vaguenesss when attempting to describe creationism. There is excellent material available on this subject from numerous sources.
I strongly feel there is a place in the education community for your paper, but if it continues to be a vehicle to promote public schools and belittle Christian education you will have done a disservice to journalism and education.
Peter S. Harvey Administrator Kalifonsky Christian School Soldotna, Alaska
Peter Relic's article on the partici-pation of handicapped students in in-terscholastic athletics (Commentary, Dec. 14) explores a sensitive problem hu-manistically, but incompletely. He high-lights the dilemma of the overage, handicapped athlete, but ignores the impact upon other athletes and upon interscholastic sports generally of allowing that athlete to compete.
Why does almost every state from coast to coast enforce the age 19 rule--the requirement that students must not have reached their 19th birthday by September 1 of their senior year--if they are to participate in high-school athletics?
This rule was established because of two serious problems: (1) To prevent older, mature athletes from physically injuring younger athletes and (2) to prevent "redshirting," the practice of holding an athlete back to gain in strength and size or to play with a younger but promising team.
Many handicapped students are well-developed physically. For example, during my tenure as superintendent of Evanston Township High School District in Illinois, one EMH (mentally handicapped) student played starting forward on the 1968 state-championship basketball team, and three years later a deaf student anchored the district championship 880-yard relay team. Other examples could be cited, including one-armed baseball and football stars.
Coaches welcome "handicapped" students if they meet the usual criteria of age, good citizenship, and adequate grades. To make an exception in one of these areas surely would call for an exception in a second area, and then a third. More important, allowing a 19-year-old handicapped student to compete could eliminate a 16-year-old handicapped student from the team. Or worse yet, the younger student could be injured by the older student during practice.
As the courts have repeatedly cited, exceptions make bad law. Here is a classic example of an exception that by itself appears harmless, but given the larger context creates more problems than it solves. The age 19 rule is a fair rule for high schools.
Scott D. Thomson Executive Director National Association of Secondary School Principals Reston, Va.