Letters To The Editor
In response to Bruce S. Cooper's commentary, "Government Should Help Families Pursue Religious Education" (Education Week, Dec. 7, 1983): This is the land of opportunity. We all enjoy the same opportunity to pursue happiness in whatever fashion suits us as long as it does not interfere with another person's freedom to pursue happiness.
We all profit from a high degree of literacy among our citizens. We do not profit from an increase in the number of students of religion. Once you have acquired reading and thinking skills, you are free to read and think whatever you please. Therefore, once you learn your public-school lessons, you are free to pursue whatever holy writings you care to.
The government does help families pursue religious education. Anything beyond this is not freedom of choice but indoctrination. And indoctrination of children should be at the expense of their parents.
Warren C. Sheldon Principal Alamo School Vacaville, Calif.
Much attention has been given the headline chosen for your recent article on the Council of Chief State School Officers' report, "Staffing the Nation's Schools: A National Emergency." The headline--"State Chiefs Seek End to Ed.-School Requirements for Teachers" (Education Week, Dec. 7, 1983)--implies to the reader that the council is proposing to do just that. However, a complete reading of the article informs the reader that such an intent is not true. Note, for example, your statement on the council's recommendation that "the training of teachers be extended to include, for example, a fifth year in college or a year-long apprenticeship." Is it conceivable that the council could be proposing to eliminate and extend training in the same breath?
The recommendations that may have led to the misleading headline state that:
"The chief state school officers should support programs and activities which provide the opportunity for talented individuals who do not complete approved undergraduate preparation programs to be prepared to teach. Such programs might include summer and fifth-year programs and specially designed inservice-training activities. These options should be available to able students from all institutions, though they particularly will be useful for ensuring that students at institutions without teacher-preparation programs are not lost from the pool of prospective teachers."
"State education agencies should develop alternative approaches to certifying persons desiring to enter the teaching profession. Such options might include using credit for work experience or the use of competency measures as a means of qualifying for certification. These options should be available to able graduates from all institutions, though they will be particularly useful for ensuring that students in high-quality institutions without teacher-preparation programs are not lost from the pool of prospective teachers."
Please note that the council in no way is suggesting that education courses for certification be eliminated. However, council members do believe that some circumstances call for alternative approaches for certification. As an organization, we stand ready to participate in studying what those alternatives should be.
The body of your article reflects fairly on the council's report, which contains 36 recommendations organized into five major categories, including: attracting people to the teaching profession, preparing people for teaching, licensing people for the teaching profession, retaining teachers, and research issues. The report was based on a study initiated by the council in 1980. Since the report is now available through the Washington office of the council, I would suggest that interested people read the report for themselves.
Ted Sanders Superintendent of Public Instruction Department of Education Carson City, Nev.
Editor's Note: The writer's point is well taken. We regret the misleading headline.
Thomas Staples made some excellent points regarding the benefit of year-round schooling to students with special needs ("For Both Students and Teachers, Year-Round Schooling Makes Educational and Economic Sense," Education Week, Jan. 11, 1984). However, the benefits to the remainder of the students must be viewed in terms of climate, community support or need, and economic realities. We must also consider the variations that exist between states and school districts, between students at various grade levels, and between staff members in districts.
We must seriously question how students will benefit from a plan that allows teachers to opt for 60-, 90-, 120-, 180-, or 240-day annual contracts. Such plans could eliminate the advantage of year-round schooling for special students and prove devastating to millions of others.
Consideration must also be given to the tremendous scheduling problems that would be caused by a plan in which students attend school for three quarters of a four-quarter year. Place this in combination with the above contract options for teachers and you can expect disaster.
I disagree with Mr. Staples that there is "a lot of time ill spent in beginning and ending rituals." Five minutes into the first day of school and there is no sign that there ever was a summer vacation in our district. Even a week of review is valuable as reinforcement of earlier learning. At the end of the year, we may "lose" one day or two at the most to track meets, family picnics, or parties. But doesn't the adult world also lose time to company picnics, office parties, and other activities? Consider these activities a reward for a job well done.
In a year-round school, we would have to consider time lost because of additional holidays. We must also think of the attitude of the student whose schedule calls for school all summer and a vacation during the cold and snow of winter.
We must also understand that the public and our lawmakers often fail to support their dreams with dollars. There are many states and school districts that provide funding levels totally inadequate for 180 days of school. It is unlikely that one-third more dollars will be made available for year-round salaries or for the added expenditures for electricity, heating, water, transportation, cafeteria maintenance, supplies, and the replacement of furniture, textbooks, and buildings.
In this context, year-round schooling is less cost effective than the present 180-day schedule. A building with a life of 25 years would last about 18 years if it were in use for 240 days of the year. A student desk would have to be replaced in about 11 years instead of 15. The maintenance and repair usually done in the summer would have to be worked around class hours if possible. And at the present rate of increase in gas and electric costs, air conditioning could easily become cost-prohibitive in the near future.
Any state or school district receiving a mandate from the public for an extended school year must also receive an unequivocal commitment for the necessary financial support. Such support has only recently begun to surface in various places in our nation for the nine-month school year.
Mr. Staples' suggestion for increasing teachers' salaries with a year-round contract ignores many important and valid considerations. Teachers should receive far better per-diem pay. Adding a third more days to the contract year for a third more salary does increase yearly salaries, but it neglects the true value to society of a good teacher on a day-to-day basis.
Year-round school also neglects the matter of additional college preparation. Teachers and universities would have to shift to nighttime classes for inservice programs. The effectiveness of both teaching and learning would certainly decline in a work year of 240 days with night classes.
Mr. Staples suggests letting teachers opt for contracts of up to 240 days and says of present year-round employees that, "there would not need to be an increase in their salaries." This fails to consider the increase in responsibility and pressure for the maintenance, custodial, secretarial, and administrative staff members that would result from having teachers and students in the building year-round.
In our system, the elementary teacher at the top of the salary schedule presently makes $2.69 per hour more than the elementary principal at the top of the salary schedule. Mr. Staples' suggestion would not only markedly increase the responsibility and pressure for the administrator, but would pay him or her thousands of dollars less per year than a teacher. In all, this suggestion reveals a lack of understanding of the behind-the-scenes work done by custodians, secretaries, and administrators necessary to the successful operation of a school or district.
The many-faceted question of how to improve our educational systems is presently beginning to receive long-overdue attention. This attention can only improve education for our students if it is a widely shared and cooperative venture. Our nation must work in concert and not as separated and self-seeking groups of parents, lawmakers, teachers, boards of education, and administrators. It can be done if we all grab a bootstrap and pull together.
Walter Yingling Principal Robinwood Lane Elementary School Boardman Local School District Boardman, Ohio
In the excerpts from President Reagan's State of the Union message (Education Week, Feb. 1, 1984), you quote him as saying to the members of Congress: "Each day, your members observe a 200-year-old tradition meant to signify America as one nation under God." The Pledge of Allegiance was written at the turn of this century by a reporter for Boys World; a few decades ago, the Congress inserted the words "under God."
Alicya Malik Douglas, Ariz.
Editor's Note: The President was apparently referring not to the Pledge of Allegiance but to the Congress's tradition of beginning its daily session with a prayer.
The analysis presented by Douglas D. Noble ("A Future Neither Bright Nor Brainy," Education Week, Feb. 8, 1984) that our future problems may well be a supply of good jobs rather than a supply of good workers was thought-provoking.
It reminded me of the reports of the Commission on Life Adjustment Education which, in the 1940's, addressed the problem of the 60 percent of high-school youths who were being served by neither the college-preparatory program nor the vocational-education program. The commission recommended that the school curriculum be revised to include functional experiences in the areas of practical arts, home and family living, civic competence, and health and physical fitness, and that a supervised program of work experiences be provided for a major proportion of our youths.
I wonder if the 1990's will bring proposals for curricular change incorporating the concepts included in the Life Adjustment Education movement.
Harold C. Hein Coordinator and professor Secondary education The University of Mississippi University, Miss.
I was embarrassed by Shirley Hufstedler's use of the word "cupidity'' in a recent article in your "People" section. "If Americans will not support public education out of conscience, then they must do so out of cupidity," Ms. Hufstedler said. (Education Week, Feb. 8, 1984.)
Cupidity is defined by Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary as strong desire, lust; inordinate desire for wealth, avarice, greed. What kind of motivation is that to support public schools? I hope the public conscience bears witness to their support of public education, not out of cupidity but out of commitment--an act of committing to a charge or a trust.
Edwin W. Zielske Principal St. John's Lutheran Church and Day School Winston-Salem, N.C.