Letters To the Editor
I disagree with much of what Xerox Corporation's chairman and chief executive officer, David T. Kearns, said in his Oct. 26 speech to the Economic Club of Detroit ("Xerox Executive Exhorts Candidates to Focus on Schools," Oct. 28, 1987).
Mr. Kearns suggested that public education has "produced few positive results." To the contrary: This nation is well on its way to becoming a learning society, thanks largely to public education.
He also contended that the current public school system is a "failed monopoly." Again, I disagree: I prefer a regulated service-oriented system to a market-oriented system. Does anyone think we now have a better telephone system than we did prior to the breakup of at&t?
Mr. Kearns's blaming public education for putting this country at a ''terrible competitive disadvantage" is unfair to the vast, dedicated majority of public-school teachers and administrators who work under unfavorable conditions, well beyond their assigned hours, for the common good.
Rather than blame public education, he should ask how many public schools have abandoned American communities by moving their plants abroad.
As a member of the new National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the Education Commission of the States, and the Committee for Economic Development, Mr. Kearns will, I hope, be more sensitive to what educators are doing and not leap to accept educationally flawed solutions such as those he proposed in his speech: the voucher plan, the elimination of the grade structure, and the evaluation of teachers on the basis of student progress.
Education and business remain fundamentally different. Still, we in education welcome the realization within the business community that corporations must become "learning organizations" and that longterm profit making requires ethical public service.
While educators applaud the relatively recent introduction of "educational" trends in business and also seek to learn from the business community, Mr. Kearns arrogantly implies that business could better run public education. A number of major corporations have already tried it and failed.
I hope Mr. Kearns will continue to make suggestions, but at the same time attempt to understand public-education administration before he tells educators what to do.
Louis Wildman Associate Professor Educational Administration California State College Bakersfield, Calif.
Your article on curriculum alignment ("Districts Turn to Nonprofit Group for Help in 'Realigning' Curricula To Parallel Tests," Oct. 28, 1987) raises at least two troublesome issues.
First, the article comments: "Without that match, known as 'curriculum alignment,' students may spend hours studying material that will never be tested. ..." I spent years studying material I was never tested on--and I'm delighted I did. I would be a miserably educated human being if my study in school had been confined to material assigned for tests.
Second, while I can understand the role of the Educational Products Information Exchange on a national basis, as in its comparison of "the math objectives for grades K-12 for some 40 states and 14 school districts," I do not completely grasp its role at a district level. The article mentions the case of a New Jersey school district, for instance, that brought in epie to determine "which of their math objectives are matched by ... six leading textbook series." The director of curriculum and instruction was cited as reporting that "the schools now know."
My question (not a rhetorical or idle one) is: Why couldn't the schools know without epie? Why is it necessary to import a consulting firm to do this work?
Not only do I assume the teachers themselves (not to mention the math-curriculum supervisor) would be fully qualified to do the job, but I also think they would want to do their own evaluating of the textbooks.
The New Jersey example concerns evaluation of the alignment of curricular goals with textbooks yet to be adopted. Even more puzzling to me are the instances cited' of epie's coming into a school district to see how well the goals match the textbooks currently in use. This evaluation should already have been done internally. Any good teacher could assess off the top of his head the appropriateness for his goals of the texts he uses.
If the curriculum supervisor has not, on his own, orchestrated a formal or informal evaluation of this alignment, he should be chastised; this duty self-evidently belongs to the supervisor.
And what are teacher textbook-selection committees for? Isn't the process of textbook selection and evaluation a fruitful educational experience for teachers?
I cheer epie's services on a national or statewide level. On the local scene, however, epie should be used only as a last resort--perhaps to help a district fine-tune its alignment after the teachers and the administrators have done their full share of work.
B.J. Brown Littleton, Colo.
The notion of curriculum alignment has appeal for school districts seeking curricular balance and consistency.
Such a process requires a carefully tailored coordination effort. To this end, teaching strategies, models of curriculum organization, content choices, and responsive evaluation measures are all vital considerations.
But the notion of curriculum alignment that seems to be promoted by epie, at least in its dealings with Gary County Unified School District, subordinates the process of curriculum development to external testing priorities, namely the state minimum-competency exam.
Thus, the curriculum falls in line with the test, and, for all intents and purposes, the test becomes the curriculum.
Such a situation represents no kind of balanced alignment at all, but something more like narrow conformity to standardized minimums.
Peter S. Hlebowitsh Assistant Professor of Education Long Island University C.W. Post Campus Brookville, N.Y.