Letters to the Editor
Patricia Surber Principal Linwood Fundamental Academy Cincinnati, Ohio
In Adam Urbanski's Commentary, "Restructuring the Teaching Profession" (Oct. 28, 1987), it was noteworthy that the Rochester (N.Y.) Teachers Association is designing programs meant to improve teachers' skills and to provide them a voice in planning their careers.
Mr. Urbanski and the association seem optimistic that with teachers in the driver's seat, everyone will live happily ever after.
While everyone would support teacher involvement, I found that a number of Mr. Urbanski and his association's ideas substitute fantasy for reality and ignore research. Unless clear thinking prevails, they may find themselves repeating the errors of the management they blame.
Though Mr. Urbanski praises the "mutual trust between management and labor" in Rochester, the essay is filled with distrust of the administration that serves his district. Notably, the author hints that, under the new agreement, traditional "supervision" of teachers would be eliminated. An ironic turn, since evaluation and judgment calls are primary components of educating students.
Under Rochester's Peer Assistance and Review Program, "lead teachers" provide help for new and needy teachers. A fine idea, but is this ''assistance" merely advice that can be dismissed, or does the lead teacher have additional power to improve a teacher's performance? Without that power, a lead teacher can do little more than wish upon a star that the needy teacher will heed his advice. With it, you may call the relationship "teacher to teacher," but in reality you have supervision. To suggest otherwise to teachers is to wish for Never Never Land.
Amazingly, the association did not use its peer program to improve supervision by gaining a stronghold for the future identification of administrators. Surely a lead teacher who shows skill in assisting teacher improvement could be an ideal candidate for a principalship. The required two-year waiting period for a lead teacher before entering administration is a waste of talent and a disservice to teachers who could profit from such skill.
Though Mr. Urbanski recognizes that skillful teachers can make a difference in teaching "at risk" students, he carries the fact to a foolish conclusion by suggesting that such students be taught by the proven teachers, and the "successful" students by the new and needy teachers. Not only does this plan require classifying students like species on a biology chart, but one could question the validity of giving responsibility for teaching honors courses to the less able educators.
I expect this will be a difficult concept to sell to skilled teachers and the parents of students in advanced programs. How destructive it is for our professionals, as well as the schools of education, to continue to believe that children must be segregated because they do not fit the model of the 1950's.
The grand finale of this educational fantasy tries to resolve the inequality that exists from school to school, which Mr. Urbanski believes is directly related to upper-management decisions. He suggests that, through open-market competition among schools, parents make the choice for their children. When the dust settles, he believes, the good teachers and the good students and the good parents will win, and the bad guys go out of business. Sounds like a Saturday-morning cartoon.
In reality, the law decrees that the public has the greatest chance for equal opportunity within the school system if the board of education must answer for all institutions.
While we note that the script may need a rewrite, the stars of this production, the teachers, remain the strongest resource we have for educating children. Let us not sell them short with promises that ignore reality.
Leon E. Johnson Professor College of Education Department of Health and Physical Education University of Missouri at Columbia Columbia, Mo.
It is a breath of fresh air to read Adam Urbanski's Commentary.
I am sure Mr. Urbanski's view that the restructuring of the profession requires "taking risks and abandoning traditional postures" has given state departments of education and school-board members nightmares. Most of these administrators and policymakers are solidly confirmed in the philosophy that "what was good enough for previous generations is good enough for future generations." That outlook keeps them employed.
The prevalence of such a philosophy helps to explain the statistics Mr. Urbanski reports regarding the use of noncertified teachers and the frequency of teachers working in subjects or grades in which they are not appropriately prepared. Because the concept of "temporary teachers" saves the district money, it will continue as long as the public permits.
The teacher-training institutions of this country have been under attack for turning out teachers who are not appropriately trained.
However, with many state legislatures passing required evaluation procedures without appropriate funding or valid evaluative instruments, the problems are going to get bigger.
Maybe a national sales tax for education only would help. Funding for education usually falls to property owners, in the form of increased assessments. I don't blame property owners for voting down those taxes.
If we continue to follow tradition in education, the results will be dismal. A nation that could put a man on the moon should be able to restructure its teaching profession effectively.
If society fails to restructure the profession, the problems facing our schools will persist.
Errol S. Frank Superintendent Southwest Local School District Harrison, Ohio
My letter could be entitled "Even Education Week Is Guilty." I am writing in reference to your headline for the article "Appointed Board a Loser in Texas; Schools Win Lottery Vote in Ohio" (Nov. 11, 1987).
From the headline, an innocent reader might actually believe that education in Ohio is going to receive increased lottery monies.
The text of the article, however, stated, "[O]fficials warned that the new law would not result in more money for schools." In essence, that is the fact. Only a technical instrument, the "new law" will have no bearing on the ailing finances of Ohio.
Perhaps the headline should have read, "Lottery Issue Passes in Ohio; Will Do Nothing for Schools."