Letters to the Editor
Dennis L. Evans ("The Risks of Inclusive 'Choice' Plans," Commentary, Feb. 14, 1990) and Edd Doerr ("Including Private Option in 'Choice' Plans: Further Debate," Letters, Feb. 14, 1990) would deny the poor those educational choices now enjoyed by the rich in both the public and private sectors.
Their reluctance is understandable. The conscription of the many for the enthusiasms of the few is a comfortable and familiar policy.
Given a despairing view of the citizen's capacity for self-direction and a high optimism about educators, the present system has plausibility.
The 19th-century forebears of Mr. Evans and Mr. Doerr sincerely believed that the state schools would soon discover the one correct way to educate the masses. Such a premise made it rational--if undemocratic--to give the schools dominion over the people.
Unfortunately, the state still lacks the formula that fits every child or even the average child.
Meanwhile, the masses have understandably lost patience with a century of fruitless subordination.
The point of my essay was that, under these circumstances, a policy that would terminate the family's bondage to the state system might prove as benign a course for the poor as it has always been for the rich.
Choice obviously works for most of those who have managed to try it, and no longer can we find a rationale to frustrate those who would follow suit.
I mean offense to no one, but I do urge a greater social trust in parents who wish to exercise responsibility.
In any case, the question deserves respectful debate.
John E. Coons School of Law University of California at Berkeley Berkeley, Calif.
Your article "Coalition Implores Bush, Governors To Avoid Use of Standardized Tests" (Jan. 31, 1990) was a pleasure to read.
Education in Ohio is undergoing some major changes, most of which are designed to improve students' performance.
But I am disturbed by the required standardized-testing procedures being implemented in our schools.
With open enrollment on the horizon, it appears that scores from these tests will be used to compare districts.
Many schools will suffer because of excessive emphasis on a single score.
The pressure applied to teachers and administrators will encourage them to be accountable only to the standardized test.
We have already implemented methods of assessment and intervention for the critical skills of all students as they progress through the school year.
The public must be made aware of the importance of continual assessment and performance throughout the year.
Standardized-test scores are useful for helping us make decisions about students and curriculum, but they are only a small portion of the total assessment.
I'm happy to see in your article that many of our educational leaders are sending the message that genuine accountability involves more than a single score.
James J. Selgo Elementary-School Principal Stryker, Ohio
It's a little sad that the collective memories of Education Week and Harold Hawkins's National Interface Task Force are so short that a major story about the influence of school design on learning ("Task Force Begins Campaign To Highlight Role of School Design on Student Learning," Feb. 21, 1990) failed to mention the pioneering role of the Educational Facilities Laboratories in this field since the late 1950's.
As an independent agency established by the Ford Foundation in 1958 under the leadership of Harold Gores, the e.f.l. initially provided all manner of technical assistance--through both grants and wise counsel--throughout the education arena.
It also published an extraordinary array of monographs and reports on what Mr. Gores called the "hardware" of education that helped change the face--and a lot of the innards--of the American schoolhouse during this period.
It was influential, in particular, in encouraging a significant number of school boards and architects across the land to break open the time-honored "egg-crate design"--Mr. Gores' name for the use of double-loaded corridors--in school buildings.
In its later years, under Alan Green's leadership, it converted from a foundation to a research, public-service, and information-dissemination institute. In 1979, it became a division of the Academy for Educational Development.
During this period, its mission broadened to include such concerns as architectural preservation and the adaptive use of older structures, the arts, school energy conservation, uses for surplus school space, and community school centers. It ended its work in the early 1980's.
To many of the e.f.l.'s old friends and beneficiaries, it may be a bit unsettling to read in your piece that "[u]ntil recently, task-force members said, most school construction took place 'in a vacuum,' with little attention to the ways in which buildings can enhance student learning or even the working environment for teachers."
Mr. Hawkins and his task force might profit--and perhaps avoid re-inventing a few school-design wheels or undertaking some unnecessary studies--by first discovering how fully the e.f.l. filled that so-called ''vacuum."
Junius Eddy Consultant Little Compton, R.I.
I am the author of Imponderables, Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise? and Other Imponderables, and When Do Fish Sleep? and Other Imponderables.
Currently at work on the fourth book of the series, to be published by Harper & Row in the fall, I am hoping your readers can help me solve some of the small mysteries of everyday life:
Why did the E disappear from the A-through-F grading scale?
Why don't schools require stu4dents to learn first-aid and cardiopulmonary-resuscitation techniques?
How did grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy become designated as the "liberal arts"?
Any assistance, including referral to other sources, would be greatly appreciated.
I can be contacted at 145 West 58th St., 3M, New York, N.Y. 10019; telephone: (212) 581-5525.
David Feldman New York, N.Y.