Letters to the Editor
As a subscriber to Education Week, I was rather upset by the one-sided attitude taken in your article regarding school finances in New Hampshire.
I am a principal in one of the towns that is a plaintiff in the lawsuit [challenging the legality of New Hampshire's school-funding method]. One of the basic purposes of the suit is to move the state towards funding education at a higher level. The law called Foundation Aid is supposed to alleviate these funding inconsistencies, but the law itself is funded at an amount that is only 10 percent of the total formula.
Apparently your information regarding Robert C. Smith [who opposes the lawsuit] is for the most part accurate, but as Mr. Smith's is only one rural school system in the whole state, let it not be misconstrued that this is the feeling of the majority!
The purpose of the suit is not to force the state to institute some form of broad-based tax--which seems to be the opinion fostered by Mr. Smith, who is also, as you mentioned, a candidate for Congress.
My main concern is that politics are kept out of the educational issue of school aid as much as possible and at the same time that a factual, objective assessment of the issue is presented.
Eric L. Knowlton Principal, Allenstown School District Allenstown, N.H.
Editor's Note: Previous articles on New Hampshire's school-finance suit appeared in Education Week on Nov. 16, 1981, and Feb. 2, 1982.
Six long years after the publication of Berliner and Rosenshine's Beginning Teacher Evaluation Study, it is almost inconceivable to read that North Dakota's Superintendent of Public Instruction has proposed individualized education programs for a "majority of the state's public-school pupils." Equally disconcerting, not one person quoted in Education Week's April 21st article ("North Dakota Plan for Individualized Instruction Stirs Criticism") opposed the plan on educational grounds. It is as if no one in that state has read any of the contemporary research that deals with this system of indirect instruction.
Perhaps arguments against the superintendent's proposal would be more telling if they focused on the negative impact such instruction has on most children instead of complaining about how much it might cost or how hard it makes teachers work. Certainly, this last argument is stronger when it is made clear just how little of that hard work involved the teaching of girls and boys in the classroom. Indeed, in individualized instruction the term "teaching" is rarely used since most of the instructor's time is given over to record-keeping and management.
Education Week's readers need to know that while the term "individualized instruction" has a nice ring to it--and it does enjoy a nice press--it has an ever diminishing reputation among most educators. A case in point is that the term "off task" was coined to describe the most common condition of students in individualized classrooms. Thus, we find that what originally was conceived as being a "teacher proof" instructional system is "student proof" as well.
Edward O. Vail President Integrative Learning Systems Inc. Glendale, Calif.
Wellford W. Wilm's Commentary in your April 28 issue prompts this letter. I found his essay interesting, if not novel. I am a professor of education at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y., finishing a two-year leave during which I am serving as a program officer at the Exxon Education Foundation in New York.
I presume that school boards and administrations are not acting irrationally when they implement a policy to reward a teacher financially for having earned--at least, received--graduate credits or degrees. I'm not sure they are acting wisely or even prudently.
I infer that school boards believe that the learning that graduate study should entail is inherently desirable for teachers to pursue. The graduate credits earned act as a surrogate for the imputed learning. In most cases, we measure that which is most easily measured. And the indicium of the university protects the believer.
I don't think this sort of reasoning makes an adequate case.
People forget. Teachers forget. Teachers forget some, much, or all of what they learn in graduate courses. So, to the extent that teachers forget what they may have learned in a graduate course, for which they have received salary increments, should their increments be reduced? If they remember it, should the salary rise again?
People learn differently. People in the same class learn different things, both different from each other, and from what the professor intended. Not always, but often enough. People also learn different "amounts" from the same experience. Hence, grades. One who learns more than another has a case to receive a greater salary increase. Individual differences probably also argue that even identical grades do not represent identical levels or areas of achievement. Should these differences not be reflected in individualized increments?
Some teachers go to graduate schools expressly to become better qualified to leave teaching. For example, some take graduate degrees in school administration and supervision so they can compete more effectively for these non-teaching positions. Should a school board reward a teacher for graduate study whose overt purpose and likely effect is to facilitate departure from teaching?
Not all graduate schools are equal in the quality of their teaching or of their libraries, in the selectivity of admissions, or in the mean achievement and aptitude of their students. Presumably, there is more or "better" learning going on at blue-ribbon universities than at their weaker counterparts. Do credits earned at world-class graduate schools merit the same salary increments as credits earned at a graduate school of palpably lower "quality"?
It seems to me that salary increments based solely on graduate study require the policy maker to accept the kind of operational assumptions I have sketched here. They include equating all (accredited) schools, all grades, almost all courses, and --of course--all teachers.
There must be a better way.
William J. McKeough Glen Cove, N.Y.