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Sharon Kagan makes some good points in her Commentary about schooling for 4-year-olds, but I feel that she misses the mark on the issue of teacher qualifications for providing early-childhood education ("4-Year-Olds and the Schools," Dec. 11, 1985).

The only way to ensure quality in child-development programs is by hiring qualified personnel. The quality of personnel is ensured in most cases through some form of certification and/or licensing requirements.

The Child Development Associate degree Ms. Kagan suggests is a privately conferred degree that is acquired primarily through experience; it does not emphasize academic preparation. I agree with Ms. Kagan that early-childhood teachers need not be graduates of four-year programs. But there are many two-year associate-degree programs in early-childhood education at universities and colleges nationwide that have been developed specifically for the preparation of these teachers.

I also agree with Ms. Kagan that no single approach will meet the needs of a diverse public. But wealthier families already have the choice of high-quality early-childhood education. More parents deserve the same choice, and that is most likely to happen through a publicly funded system.

In any case, it is the quality of the personnel, more than any other factor, that will make the difference.


Carol S. Browne Assistant Professor School of Education Indiana University East Richmond, Ind.

To the Editor:

Letters like the one from Richard J. Mueller always bother me ("Command of English, Not Bilingualism, Is Key to Students' Success," Dec. 11, 1985). Mr. Mueller contends that immigrants should, like his parents, embrace English totally and that a command of English is the key to success. I certainly have no problem with the concept that each student needs to function well in English to have the best chance for success. What bothers me is reality and means.

Some families, like Mr. Mueller's and mine, came from an Anglo culture (which makes assimilation in the United States easier), wish to divest themselves of some aspects of their native culture, and do not have the opportunity for frequent contact with the previous culture.

Yet many immigrants from Central America do not immediately drop their language in preference for English, nor do they make radical changes in their culture. Whether they should do so is not the question. The fact is that they don't.

The schools must deal with all children and the languages they bring to school. We can't send them home with a note saying, "Send your child back when he is functional in English."

In response to this problem, many would say that we should teach in English only and force these students to learn English. What will happen to their learning in mathematics, science, and social studies while they are learning English? Nothing. They will either complete 1st grade, with little or no content knowledge, and be socially promoted, or they will be retained in 1st grade until they learn enough English, and eventually content, to be promoted on the basis of achievement.

The result of either approach has been clear for years--a high dropout rate leading to low-paying jobs and the continuation of a cycle of poverty.

The English-only approach failed in the Southwest for 150 years. Why return to a failed policy?

Mr. Mueller and many others seem to assume that bilingual programs are monolingual programs in the native language. But a good transitional bilingual program, such as the one we have in Plainview, Tex., allows 85 to 90 percent of the students who enter the program in kindergarten to be completely functional in English by the end of the 3rd grade. These students do not have to be retained, they are functioning on grade level in content areas, and they are capable of reading and writing in two languages (a definite advantage in a shrinking world).

It has been proven in many schools across the Southwest that bilingual education can be a success, given dedicated teachers and administrative support.

Terry Northup Chairman, Division of Education Wayland Baptist University Plainview, Tex.



To the Editor:

In a recent issue of Education Week, you published a Commentary by Theodore A. Chandler entitled "Teaching Students the Value of Failure" (Nov. 6, 1985).

I agree with everything Mr. Chandler has written--in the context in which it is written, and using the examples that he uses. But I would caution your readers against one generalization I have found prevalent among educators nationwide.

There exists a strange notion that it is the responsibility of teachers to fail students in order to demonstrate that they, the teachers, are tough and rigorous in their dispensing of knowledge. An essay such as Mr. Chandler's could be used to justify this position.

In 1972, while on the faculty of another university, I became alarmed when the student newspaper published the findings of a campuswide study that had been conducted by a couple of the institution's deans. The deans had ranked the colleges on campus from best to worst, using as their criterion the mean grade-point average of the students in those colleges.

The most prestigious college on campus, according to the deans, was the college of law, because it had the lowest mean gpa and the highest failure rate among its students. The college of least repute was the college of military science, because it had the highest mean gpa and the lowest failure rate.

The irony of the whole thing was that the students who graduated from the university's college of law also had the lowest success rate in passing the state's bar examination.

That educators would justify their students' low gpa's and high failure rates as a natural function of academic rigor is simply unmitigated idiocy and points to a serious problem we have in education.

As I study the environments of school classrooms at all grade levels throughout the United States, I am alarmed at the amount of failure that occurs, almost on a systematic basis.

We know that the science and the technologies exist to create effective learning environments--ones in which students can experience academic success. Educators typically ignore that science and those technologies in favor of an intuitive approach to instruction, and then justify the failures of their students on the basis of rigor as it relates to their curriculum.

Our responsibility as educators is to gear our classes for success. In the normal course of their lives, students are going to experience plenty of failure. We don't have to build failure into the classrooms in a systematic way, as though it were an invaluable and necessary teaching tool.

The great thrust in educational research today is toward creating an academic environment in the classroom that dramatically increases the probability that students will succeed. Success does breed success.

Glenn I. Latham Professor of Education Utah State University Logan, Utah



To the Editor:

In "Principals, Leadership, and Reform" (Commentary, Dec. 18, 1985), Dale Mann makes the point that only administrators have the purview, the responsibility, and the resources to lead the schools into the future, but that they need to be retrained and subjected to such things as performance reviews, evaluations, and merit pay in order to do it.

It seems to me that such thinking is a sure-fire guarantee of educational disaster. Certainly, many administrators do need to be retrained, but not for the continuation of "business as usual" that Mr. Mann seems to favor. Domination by leadership that is aloof and divorced from the profession it seeks to lead simply does not work effectively in public education. In fact, it is a major contributor to our current problems.

The time is long past due when we should have begun working to reunite our profession, ease the foolish conflicts, and create a lean, mean teaching machine. Identification of principals as principal teachers is a good first step
in that direction.

Fred Gibson Teacher Coachella Valley Unified School District Thermal, Calif.


To the Editor:

Neil Postman's incisive Commentary about the visual metronome, a.k.a. television, was well appreciated ("Learning in the Age of Television," Dec.4, 1985). May I add another television commandment? "Thou shalt always stereotype."

Television depicts people as one-dimensional stereotypes devoid of a full range of human emotions. Television characters have prefabricated personalities that approach problems with limited reactive capacities: violence for the law-and-order set; inane activities for the sitcoms; and banal commentary from the newscasters and the sportscasters. These idola theatri are foils for the sponsors and others who franchise the nonperson in the form of posters, games, toys, clothes, records, tapes, and the like.

The ultimate objective of American television (commercial and public) is to create and maintain consumerism under the guise of electronic entertainment. Stereotyping and role-model identification ensures the loyalty of the mesmerized viewer.

John Caruso Jr. Professor Education Department Western Connecticut State University Danbury, Conn.


No one quoted in your recent articles concerning P.L. 94-142 at the 10-year mark (Nov. 13, 1985) seems willing to point out something I feel must be pointed out. When the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was drafted, the preamble stated that there were 8 million handicapped children of school age in the United States in need of special education. The preamble went on to state that half of them were not receiving appropriate educational services and that 1 million were being excluded entirely from the school system.

Now it seems that a rise over 10 years of slightly more than half-a-million students being served by special education is considered a shocking increase that casts doubt on the education world and its models for identification and service.

It is time for state and local education agencies that are trying to more appropriately and completely serve an increased number of handicapped students to return the slings and arrows of people who have suddenly realized there is a greater cost involved than the federal government is willing to provide for.

I would not disagree with those who say we are perhaps identifying some children who are not truly handicapped. But I would disagree with those who say that too many children per se are being served. If the estimates were even half correct 10 years ago, we have just barely approached the numbers of children who should legitimately be identified as having handicapping conditions requiring special education.

We must stop playing the numbers game. Whether the number of handicapped children goes up even to 8 million or back down to 1 million is not the aim or the concern of education. The concern must be to identify the children who are having trouble in school because they are handicapped and to serve those children in special programs as appropriate.

I can only hope that others will remember what it was like 10 years ago when we were all working to get this bill passed and recall that the numbers that we were aiming for then have not begun to be identified.


Jeri D. Kelsay Director of Special Education Denver Public Schools Denver, Colo.

I suggest that Secretary of Education William J. Bennett blend two of his current themes: dismantling federally supported educational research and erecting another utopian voucher scheme ("E.D. Voucher Bill, in Shift, Offers Parents Choices," Nov. 13, 1985).

Should he do so before educational research becomes a lost science, he might encounter the National Institute of Education reports about the Alum Rock (Calif.) School District voucher project, conducted from 1972 to 1976.

A digest of the "final" report of this massive federal effort indicated that the project brought diversity to the district's curriculum, greater parent understanding of various schools and programs, and new roles for parents and educators. Only a "significant minority" of parents chose to send their children to schools other than their neighborhood schools, and some alternative programs were shut down for lack of clients. Systems were established to allow the compensatory-education dollars funding the project to follow eligible students to any school selected.

On the other hand, the report said, several voucher features were weak or ineffective. Parent interest was not high and the voucherization process was cumbersome. There were too many limits on how the voucher funds could be spent. The many decentralized alternative schools forced a decentralized decisionmaking process.

A later Rand Corporation study indicated that "every voucher school in every grade but one dropped in achievement ... by one-sixth of an inter-student deviation."

Mr. Bennett should use the classical training he espouses and propose solutions to real problems instead of offering shopworn remedies for symptoms vaguely understood. A quote from an old history professor comes to mind, something about those who don't understand the past repeating previous mistakes, or something like that.


Dennis Daggett Associate Superintendent Instructional Services Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Soldotna, Alaska


Eugene W. Kelly Jr. responded in his Commentary, "Why True Professionalism Is 'Critically Worthwhile"' (Dec. 4, 1985), to James M. Banner Jr.'s Commentary, "On Transforming Teaching Into a 'True Profession'" (Oct. 23, 1985), in a way that precisely points out the problems besetting teachers.

Mr. Kelly states: "Providing teachers with the conditions of a true profession is directly in line with the public interest. Enhancing the teaching profession requires concerted action by policymakers, educators, and the public in 10 interrelated areas."

He goes on in true bureaucratic style, using the following words: attracting, improving, strengthening, establishing, providing, making, expanding, ensuring, providing (again), and developing. And if this isn't condescending enough, he concludes his epistle with this sentence: ''And the need for sustained improvement in schooling, as well as fairness to teachers, makes the effort most worthwhile."

I don't want to dash Mr. Kelly's hopes, but I believe that teaching cannot and will not be anything more than a third-class profession as long as this kind of thinking prevails. If Mr. Kelly wants to know what steps need to be taken to improve my lot as a teacher, he should just ask me or my colleagues. More important, when I do tell him, he must not take offense.


Richard Taylor Public-School Teacher Ann Arbor, Mich.

In a recent issue of Education Week, you published a Commentary by Theodore A. Chandler entitled "Teaching Students the Value of Failure" (Nov. 6, 1985).

I agree with everything Mr. Chandler has written--in the context in which it is written, and using the examples that he uses. But I would caution your readers against one generalization I have found prevalent among educators nationwide.

There exists a strange notion that it is the responsibility of teachers to fail students in order to demonstrate that they, the teachers, are tough and rigorous in their dispensing of knowledge. An essay such as Mr. Chandler's could be used to justify this position.

In 1972, while on the faculty of another university, I became alarmed when the student newspaper published the findings of a campuswide study that had been conducted by a couple of the institution's deans. The deans had ranked the colleges on campus from best to worst, using as their criterion the mean grade-point average of the students in those colleges.

The most prestigious college on campus, according to the deans, was the college of law, because it had the lowest mean gpa and the highest failure rate among its students. The college of least repute was the college of military science, because it had the highest mean gpa and the lowest failure rate.

The irony of the whole thing was that the students who graduated from the university's college of law also had the lowest success rate in passing the state's bar examination.

That educators would justify their students' low gpa's and high failure rates as a natural function of academic rigor is simply unmitigated idiocy and points to a serious problem we have in education.

As I study the environments of school classrooms at all grade levels throughout the United States, I am alarmed at the amount of failure that occurs, almost on a systematic basis.

We know that the science and the technologies exist to create effective learning environments--ones in which students can experience academic success. Educators typically ignore that science and those technologies in favor of an intuitive approach to instruction, and then justify the failures of their students on the basis of rigor as it relates to their curriculum.

Our responsibility as educators is to gear our classes for success. In the normal course of their lives, students are going to experience plenty of failure. We don't have to build failure into the classrooms in a systematic way, as though it were an invaluable and necessary teaching tool.

The great thrust in educational research today is toward creating an academic environment in the classroom that dramatically increases the probability that students will succeed. Success does breed success.


Glenn I. Latham Professor of Education Utah State University Logan, Utah

The letters of Robert Primack ("Democracy Requires That State Retain 'Final Say' on Education of Children") and Edd Doerr ("Court Rulings, Referenda Opposed to 'Parochiaid"') in your Dec. 11 issue were indeed convincing at first reading.

However, their common omission in the discussion of the education of children is that of justice.

To fit all children into the same mold in their education is unjust to taxpaying parents (and concerned taxpayers) who do not want that mold for their offspring.

Parental rights are prior to governmental rights, whether that government is democratic or authoritarian or totalitarian. This is not a political issue. It is a basic human-rights issue that must be treated justly in the political arena.


Msgr. George M. Rice Pastor Emeritus Our Lady of Solitude Church Palm Springs, Calif.

Sharon Kagan makes some good points in her Commentary about schooling for 4-year-olds, but I feel that she misses the mark on the issue of teacher qualifications for providing early-childhood education ("4-Year-Olds and the Schools," Dec. 11, 1985).

The only way to ensure quality in child-development programs is by hiring qualified personnel. The quality of personnel is ensured in most cases through some form of certification and/or licensing requirements.

The Child Development Associate degree Ms. Kagan suggests is a privately conferred degree that is acquired primarily through experience; it does not emphasize academic preparation. I agree with Ms. Kagan that early-childhood teachers need not be graduates of four-year programs. But there are many two-year associate-degree programs in early-childhood education at universities and colleges nationwide that have been developed specifically for the preparation of these teachers.

I also agree with Ms. Kagan that no single approach will meet the needs of a diverse public. But wealthier families already have the choice of high-quality early-childhood education. More parents deserve the same choice, and that is most likely to happen through a publicly funded system.

In any case, it is the quality of the personnel, more than any other factor, that will make the difference.


Carol S. Browne Assistant Professor School of Education Indiana University East Richmond, Ind.

In "Principals, Leadership, and Reform" (Commentary, Dec. 18, 1985), Dale Mann makes the point that only administrators have the purview, the responsibility, and the resources to lead the schools into the future, but that they need to be retrained and subjected to such things as performance reviews, evaluations, and merit pay in order to do it.

It seems to me that such thinking is a sure-fire guarantee of educational disaster. Certainly, many administrators do need to be retrained, but not for the continuation of "business as usual" that Mr. Mann seems to favor. Domination by leadership that is aloof and divorced from the profession it seeks to lead simply does not work effectively in public education. In fact, it is a major contributor to our current problems.

The time is long past due when we should have begun working to reunite our profession, ease the foolish conflicts, and create a lean, mean teaching machine. Identification of principals as principal teachers is a good first step in that direction.


Fred Gibson Teacher Coachella Valley Unified School District Thermal, Calif.

Letters like the one from Richard J. Mueller always bother me ("Command of English, Not Bilingualism, Is Key to Students' Success," Dec. 11, 1985). Mr. Mueller contends that immigrants should, like his parents, embrace English totally and that a command of English is the key to success. I certainly have no problem with the concept that each student needs to function well in English to have the best chance for success. What bothers me is reality and means.

Some families, like Mr. Mueller's and mine, came from an Anglo culture (which makes assimilation in the United States easier), wish to divest themselves of some aspects of their native culture, and do not have the opportunity for frequent contact with the previous culture.

Yet many immigrants from Central America do not immediately drop their language in preference for English, nor do they make radical changes in their culture. Whether they should do so is not the question. The fact is that they don't.

The schools must deal with all children and the languages they bring to school. We can't send them home with a note saying, "Send your child back when he is functional in English."

In response to this problem, many would say that we should teach in English only and force these students to learn English. What will happen to their learning in mathematics, science, and social studies while they are learning English? Nothing. They will either complete 1st grade, with little or no content knowledge, and be socially promoted, or they will be retained in 1st grade until they learn enough English, and eventually content, to be promoted on the basis of achievement.

The result of either approach has been clear for years--a high dropout rate leading to low-paying jobs and the continuation of a cycle of poverty.

The English-only approach failed in the Southwest for 150 years. Why return to a failed policy?

Mr. Mueller and many others seem to assume that bilingual programs are monolingual programs in the native language. But a good transitional bilingual program, such as the one we have in Plainview, Tex., allows 85 to 90 percent of the students who enter the program in kindergarten to be completely functional in English by the end of the 3rd grade. These students do not have to be retained, they are functioning on grade level in content areas, and they are capable of reading and writing in two languages (a definite advantage in a shrinking world).

It has been proven in many schools across the Southwest that bilingual education can be a success, given dedicated teachers and administrative support.


Terry Northup Chairman, Division of Education Wayland Baptist University Plainview, Tex.

Neil Postman's incisive Commentary about the visual metronome, a.k.a. television, was well appreciated ("Learning in the Age of Television," Dec.4, 1985). May I add another television commandment? "Thou shalt always stereotype."

Television depicts people as one-dimensional stereotypes devoid of a full range of human emotions. Television characters have prefabricated personalities that approach problems with limited reactive capacities: violence for the law-and-order set; inane activities for the sitcoms; and banal commentary from the newscasters and the sportscasters. These idola theatri are foils for the sponsors and others who franchise the nonperson in the form of posters, games, toys, clothes, records, tapes, and the like.

The ultimate objective of American television (commercial and public) is to create and maintain consumerism under the guise of electronic entertainment. Stereotyping and role-model identification ensures the loyalty of the mesmerized viewer.


John Caruso Jr. Professor Education Department Western Connecticut State University Danbury, Conn.

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