Letters to the Editor
Michele Hewlett-Gomez Ph.D. Candidate esea Title VII Fellow The University of Texas Austin, Tex.
A recent article presented the importance of research methods for bilingual-education programs ("Research and the Quest for 'Effective' Bilingual Methods," Education Week, Feb. 8, 1984). What makes this article so valuable to all educators is its documentation of past and current research presented in an objective manner. For example, you use James Cummins' research to focus on the difference between acquisition of knowledge and learning a language to stress the complexities of designing a successful bilingual program. Here, Mr. Cummins states that incorporation of one route to planning a successful bilingual-education program is not realistic, since what occurs in one local school district generally does not occur in another in the exact manner.
A second research example from the Far West Laboratories in 1981 shows successful research on bilingual programs that achieve intended program goals. Here, the researchers incorporated both student-learning outcomes and the process of bilingual instruction as a means of analysis. In addition, teachers' competency was measured in terms of the quality of the instruction provided for the limited-English-proficient (lep) child.
Even though these two examples and others in your article address the difficulty of adopting one approach to teach the lep child, you fail to emphasize the crucial role of teacher training. The training of competent bilingual teachers is a vital portion of program planning to meet the goal of Lau v. Nichols (1974), as well as state or federal guidelines. Since the goal of bilingual-education programs concerns itself with student-learning outcomes, acquiring competent bilingual teachers must be a priority in designing and researching the process to educate the lep child.
If we, as bilingual educators, are to determine which methodology best fits students' needs within our schools' curriculum and instructional process, we must start by training teachers to become competent in the field of general, bilingual, and English-as-a-second-language educational theory and methodology. By considering the training of competent bilingual teachers, researchers can then continue to address the overall learning outcomes of lep children through the quality of instruction chosen as well as the competency of the bilingual teacher.
Gary Cohn Safety Harbor Middle School Oldsmar, Fla.
Alice thought she had never seen such a curious merit-pay plan in her life; it was all criteria and evaluations. The criteria were a master's degree and a passing score on a standardized test (both in-field), and the teachers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the $3,000.
The chief difficulty Alice found at first was the master's degree in-field. She had always needed more money, so she had gotten a master's in administration and supervision with hopes of becoming an administrator some day. She had taken courses to update her teaching certificate in English, but she never got a master's degree in English literature. "How," she thought, "would graduate courses in literature have helped me teach 7th-grade English, anyway? If I had gotten an in-field master's, I probably would have taught at the junior college to make more money. Besides, I love teaching 7th grade, and I am excellent at it." Alice soon came to the conclusion that it was a very difficult plan indeed.
The planners all planned at once, without waiting for turns, quarreling all the while, and fighting for the criteria; and in a very short time the Governor was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting, "Shove it down his throat!" or "Shove it down her throat!" about once a minute.
Alice began to feel very uneasy; to be sure, she had not as yet had any dispute with the Governor, but she knew that it might happen any minute. "And then," thought she, "what would become of me? They're dreadfully fond of my teaching here; the great wonder is that there's anyone left to get merit pay!"
... The moment Alice appeared she was appealed to by the Cabinet, the president of the Florida Education Association United, the deputy commissioner, and the Governor to settle the question of standardized tests, and they repeated their arguments to her--though, as they all spoke at once, she found it very hard to make out exactly what they said.
The Cabinet decided to waive the test requirement for teachers who teach subjects in which there is no standardized test.
The president of the fea-United urged that the plan be delayed a year or so until tests can be prepared for everybody.
The deputy commissioner said that one person's good fortune in getting the requirement waived doesn't mean the other person is unfortunate.
The Governor's argument was that if something wasn't done about it in less than no time, he'd require everybody to have a master's degree in their field or they'd be fired. (It was this last remark that made the whole party look so grave and anxious.)
Alice could think of nothing else to say but, "I've been evaluated by my principal; you'd better ask him about it."
"He's in his office," the Governor said to the deputy commissioner. "Fetch him here. And bring two merit teachers with him to evaluate Alice." And the deputy commissioner went off like an arrow.
By the time he had come back with the principal and the teachers, Alice had disappeared to get a job advertising pharmaceuticals. So the president of the fea-United and the deputy commissioner ran wildly up and down looking for her, while the rest of the party went back to their merit-pay plan.
Joseph M. Orlando Assistant Superintendent Kent County Vocational-Technical School District Woodside, Del.
I read with interest the Commentary by Gary K. Clabaugh and Preston D. Feden, "Chiefs Can't Cast the First Stone at the Teacher-Training System" (Education Week, March 7, 1984).
Although the authors write with authority, I wonder whether they have worked in our public schools as teachers or administrators, or if they are just "textbook professors."
It would be a great benefit to your readers if you would indicate if, for how long, and in what kind of school district authors of Commentary essays worked as teachers or administrators. Such information might allow me to read such essays without the proverbial grain of salt.
Editor's note: Mr. Clabaugh taught for three years in a junior high school; Mr. Feden was a special-education teacher for five years. La Salle College, where both currently teach, requires that each member of its education department return to the schools to supervise student teachers on a periodic basis.
Bruce Alcorn Chairman, Division of Education Grace College Winona Lake, Mich.
Ernest Boyer's statement in your report of the meeting of the National Association of Independent Schools ("Teaching About Values Called Key Part of Schooling, Education Week, March 14, 1984) that "we cannot have a value-neutral education," brings out an extremely important issue and highlights a major dilemma for our public schools. The issue is that education never has been, is not now, and never will be value-neutral; it cannot be! The dilemma for public schools is how to educate in a pluralistic society since education does not exist apart from values (or ethics), since each set of values is based on some standard, and since the people in a pluralistic society operate on the bases of different standards. All teachers live (and teach) upon the basis of some standard or code of ethics, even when they can not articulate it. The question is not if there will be a value system in place, but whose?
Tedd Levy Social studies teacher Nathan Hale Middle School Norwalk, Conn.
I enjoyed reading "America Revised ... Beyond Recognition," the commentary by Billy D. Lawrence and his students (Education Week, March 14, 1984). Any teacher with a good ear or a fast pen could no doubt provide additional observations.
A few that I managed to record include the following:
On June 25 Custer saw a small village witch lay in the valley of the Little Big Horn.
For her courage, the government gave her the salary of a soldier cut in half.
Gouverner Morris came to each meeting with a wooden leg.
This book is about Robert E. Lee and his childhood and his adultryhood.
In 1825 Stephen Foster married a lady named Mary Bell and they only had two children and a dog.
Joshua Segal Superintendent of Schools Roslyn Public Schools Roslyn, N.Y.
I respectfully call to your attention what I consider to be two lapses in editorial judgment--one longstanding and one more recent.
I recognize the value of placement advertisements, but consider "The Marketplace" an inappropriate heading for the listing of professional positions.
I also think your reproduction of the excerpt from a "history" of the United States by 8th-grade students was unfortunate.
I had come to expect a more mature approach to education journalism from Education Week, and I sadly note my disappointment.
Joshua Segal Superintendent of Schools Roslyn Public Schools Roslyn, N.Y.