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Ruth E. Randall Commissioner of Education Minnesota Department of Education St. Paul, Minn.

Your recent article on open enrollment in Minnesota attributes some local school-district problems to open enrollment ("In Nation's First Open-Enrollment State, the Action Begins," March 15, 1989).

I would like to offer some clarifying insights on the story.

In regard to the Mountain Iron-Buhl district and the perceived negative impact of open enrollment, it should be noted that:

In 1985, the Mountain Iron and Buhl school districts were consolidated.

The consolidated district has had financial problems from its inception.

School-closing decisions in 1988 created a high level of citizen irritation.

By September 1988, more than 70 resident pupils had chosen to enroll in a neighboring district without open-enrollment-type authorization. They simply left the district.

Throughout the 1988-89 school year, the school board has been attempting to create a greater degree of stability. Financial problems and school-closing issues continue to cast a cloud over the district. A referendum to secure additional tax support is scheduled for April 18.

It is in the foregoing context that many parents and pupils are seeking educational stability outside the district.

For them, mandatory school-district participation in open enrollment for 1988-89 is merely a fortuitous happenstance providing a vehicle through which they can intensify their voice of displeasure with the consolidated Mountain Iron-Buhl district.

The problems of this district were manifest considerably before the advent of open enrollment, and therefore open enrollment should not be labeled as their cause.

Thank you for providing a national forum through which Minnesota's reform efforts can be highlighted and disseminated.

B. Juan de Jesus Chula Vista, Calif.

I couldn't help but get a chuckle from reading "Perspectives on Public-School 'Choice"' (Commentary, April 19, 1989).

I don't know about suburban parents, but I'm sure that inner-city parents would send their chil4dren to the neighborhood Catholic school if they had the "choice" to do so, regardless of how many hundreds of options the public schools create.

Instead of creating more options that have dropouts, low achievement, drug use, and other problems as the end result, why not design schools based on a model that research has proven gives positive results? That model is Catholic schools.

Who are we trying to kid? Our public schools, on the whole, are a mess, and these "alternative choices" are only making them worse.

Let's accept the reality and get to work.

Suzanne A. Cornelisse Student, Elementary Education University of Montana Missoula, Mont.

I applaud Gerald W. Bracey's stand against the basic-skills approach in teaching and testing, especially in relation to language-development skills ("Advocates of Basic Skills 'Know What Ain't So,"' Commentary, April 5, 1989).

I have an additional query for the advocates of basic skills: How does one explain children's learning to speak language?

Is there someone who breaks down the speaking process into chunks for them, or drills them in how to construct sentences?

Research has shown that children's minds are constantly at work, sorting and organizing in an attempt to make some sense of their world.

What is frightening is that educators can stifle that working, seeking mind simply by assuming children know nothing except what educators can teach them!

When we assume that children are void of mental adroitness, aren't we shutting down the greatest technology in the world--the human mind?

It's not surprising that higher-order thinking skills are low in students, because children's minds often are stifled in early years of schooling.

Educators should base selection of curricula and teaching strategies on a sound rationale--one that considers what children can do with their inborn technologies.

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