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To the Editor:

In your Feb. 10 issue, you printed an article describing proposed changes in Tennessee's career ladder for teachers ("Tennessee May Drop Part of Career-Ladder System'').

In the story, the Tennessee Education Association's reaction to reform proposals was not reported accurately.

We would like to make the following points clarifying our position on the career-ladder system:

  • The T.E.A. has never taken a position in opposition to the career ladder.
  • The T.E.A. encouraged all eligible teachers to apply for career level I in 1984. By far the majority of the teachers in Tennessee's career-ladder program--32,854--are on level I, which allowed for five different methods of entry. Only 6,308 teachers and administrators are on levels II and III.
  • The T.E.A. has remained neutral on levels II and III, where almost all of the inequities exist.

I can assure you that the T.E.A. will continue to point out everything that is unfair about the career ladder, and to help every member who wants to appeal "non-passing scores'' on the career-ladder evaluation.

Because of this stance, we will be described by some in the media as anti-reform and anti-career-ladder.

However, we expect better from Education Week. We rely on your excellent newspaper for accurate, timely information.

Katie Harris
President, Tennessee Education Association
Nashville, Tenn.

Editor's Note: The T.E.A. has said on a number of occasions over the past several years that it opposes the career ladder in its present form and has called for its repeal unless it is substantially modified.

To the Editor:

I read with interest the article "Few Minorities Found on Governing Boards'' (Jan. 20, 1988).

A follow-up article could be entitled, "Few Minorities Hold Administrative Positions.''

The New York City Board of Education oversees 32 semi-autonomous community school districts. An allegation of racial discrimination in hiring practices for administrators within one of these districts was brought to my attention last June.

An investigation conducted by my office, with the assistance of the division of personnel, confirmed our worst fears of discriminatory hiring practices--not only in the suspect district but throughout many of the other 31.

An affirmative-action plan was hastily put together to deal with aspects of this problem.

Administrators are chosen by community school boards in New York City. As I undertook my study, I wondered whether the lack of minorities on these boards contributed to a subtle bias in the hiring of candidates.

Some boards demonstrated a preference in the hiring of an ethnic group: Many of the boards primarily chose white administrators, and some primarily chose Hispanic and black administrators.

Other conclusions stood out from my investigation:

  • The largest school system in the United States did not keep or monitor affirmative-action data.
  • There was intense bureaucratic resistance to my investigation, which took more than six months.
  • The board of education still has not publicized the fact that we have an affirmative-action program. Officials shy away from admitting there is a problem. Funding has not been provided for the program. As late as February, I had to fight for the inclusion of a budget sentence in our expense budget for 1988-89.
  • If New York City is typical of other major cities, it would appear that racial tensions have been exacerbated, not ameliorated, during the past 10 years. If we truly wish to see an end to racial bias in America, we had better start practicing real affirmative action.

Stephen R. Franse
Member
Board of Education
New York, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Your article "Georgia To Test Kindergartners for Promotion'' (March 2, 1988) suggested the real possibility that children will be inappropriately judged as failing kindergarten and will be placed in remedial programs.

As a kindergarten teacher, I fear the impact of the California Achievement Test on the curriculum in Georgia's kindergartens.

Mass standardized testing not only separates children into categories, but also heavily influences teaching practices.

Will all kindergartners spend more time on pencil-and-paper tasks and less with materials? Will the sand table be closed, the blocks put away, and 5-year-old children expected to sit still, listen, and become "schooled''?

To my knowledge, the message sent by the Georgia Board of Education to that state's kindergarten teachers does not agree with recommendations of the National Association for the Education of Young Children or other early-childhood experts.

Though "about 10 percent of Georgia's kindergartners are expected to score below the cutoff level,'' 100 percent of the state's 5-year-olds will probably feel the impact of the mandated testing program.

Sue M. Rasala
Lincoln-Eliot School
Newton, Mass.

To the Editor:

An article in your March 16 issue ("Junk Food vs. Cafeteria Fare: A Rat's Tale'') made the point that by experimenting on live animals for five weeks, 4th-grade students received a "hands on'' experience that motivated them to learn more about nutrition.

I wonder how many of these students also learned the subtle lesson that animals are often treated as mere tools in our society--to be manipulated and then thrown away.

To teach a student a lesson about life by giving him a hidden message of disrespect for individual lives seems an exercise in desensitizing young feelings.

At the same time, the study of nutrition in most schools is biased. Students are taught to accept the notion that there are four basic food groups--and that one of these groups includes meat.

Yet the cholesterol and saturated fat found in meat, coupled with countless drugs, pesticides, and other chemical substances fed to farm animals, are major contributors to heart disease and cancer--the two biggest killers in the United States.

Both messages of this experiment, then, need to be reassessed.

While they may appear to be "cute'' human-interest stories, pieces such as "A Rat's Tale'' obscure and trivialize the need for a shift in our attitudes toward other animals.

A change in biology-curriculum standards could be a step toward helping students realize their own capacity for sensitivity and compassion.

Rosa Feldman
Director
Student Action Corps for Animals
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:

I read with dismay of the introduction by Representative Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, of a bill to exempt Christa McAuliffe fellows from taxation ("McAuliffe Fellows Feel Tax Bite,'' March 16, 1988).

I am concerned about the precedent of exempting a particular group of educational recipients while others bear the full brunt of taxation.

The Congress has chosen not to exempt educational fellowships, and to phase out deductions for interest on educational loans.

While those of us in the profession may not agree with this decision, we can respect its consistent application.

We all mourn the Challenger astronauts. But does that mourning require us to compromise the fairness of recent tax reforms?

If educational fellowships are worthy of exemption, then that exemption should apply to all--not just those awards carrying the name of a national hero.

Paul M. Ness
Business Manager
Concord Academy
Concord, Mass.

To the Editor:

I read with interest your article "Foundations Saying 'We All Have a Stake' in Schools'' (Feb. 24, 1988).

One way in which corporate America could support schools would be to provide incentives for parents to involve themselves in their children's education.

To encourage such involvement, programs might award bonuses for participation in such activities as local parent-teacher associations, room-parenting, and tutoring.

Donna Gnagi
Director, State and Federal Programs
Ritenour School District
St. Louis, Mo.

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