Letters to the Editor
Rosanne Wood Principal School for Applied Individualized Learning Tallahassee, Fla.
It's too bad that the members of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development panel that recently criticized school-choice plans ("Choice Claims Overstated, a.s.c.d. Panel Concludes," March 7, 1990) did not visit Tallahassee, Fla.
Since 1975, hundreds of young people in this area have escaped the labels of "misfits" and "dropouts" by finding a public school to meet their social and emotional needs, as well as their learning styles.
They were not maladjusted, but like many students, they did need a different approach to learning.
Our school, known by its acronym, sail, has been fully accredited since 1981 and received Florida Commissioner of Education Betty Castor's first "award of excellence."
A variety of academic and social measures show that many youngsters who have trouble in traditional schools do well at sail.
In addition, many teachers prefer the teaching atmosphere here to that in more traditional programs.
There are hundreds of outstanding public schools around the country like sail, often started by teachers who understood there is no one best kind of school for all students or educators. The more high-quality choices a school system develops, the better.
Like everyone who works daily with young people, I know there is no single strategy that will solve all educational problems--not choice, technology, Head Start, site management, or national teacher certification.
But the more choices we have, the fewer programs we'll need for problem students because fewer students will exhibit problems. We'll have more students with "schools that fit."
Wayne B. Jennings The Institute for Learning and Teaching St. Paul. Minn.
I was disappointed in the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development panel's report on school choice.
The group seemed to think choice should do everything to fix schools perfectly.
As a former principal of alternative and regular schools, I am aware of the advantages children, parents, and staff members enjoy with a choice of programs.
The panel should have known how hard it is at the "trenches" level to make substantive changes in education.
Offering all parties a choice of programs is far more productive than trying to institute a change that some members of the school community don't want.
Think how hard it is, for example, to establish a strong advisor-advisee program, or to shift the basis for graduation from credits to competency, or to use the community extensively for learning and service.
Yet these and other exciting developments happen in alternative schools because they are a choice.
Choice isn't the whole answer to reform, as the panel chairman seemed to expect it to be, but it is a powerful mechanism for change.
The panel's members had an opportunity to make a thoughtful statement about how choice is increasing learning, graduation rates, and parental satisfaction.They blew it.