Letters to the Editor
Copyright 1991 Why have we not yet developed learning communities within the high schools of this country?
Though we may be at war with an Islamic nation within a matter of days, how many of us can answer the following questions?
What are the basic tenets of Islam?
Describe the Western distinction between the sacred and secular from the perspective of Islamic culture.
Compare the Christian conception of original sin with the Islamic conception of the basic nature of man.
We talk about our schools becoming learning communities (and not just mechanistically following the "effective schools" prescriptions), yet we have utterly failed, for example, to learn together about the most important current event of our time.
In an informal survey of high schools and junior highs in southern California, not one had stopped the regular ("factory") school schedule for a teach-in or some other schoolwide activity to apply methods of inquiry to the decisions we confront in Kuwait. Thus far, we have not utilized this opportunity to model what we teach about examining assumptions, exploring alternatives, and looking for historical analogies.
How can we expect our political leaders to thoroughly and openly analyze the issues when we educators have not taught them how?
Associate Professor of Education
California State University, Bakersfield
To the Editor:
Congratulations to Education Week and the MacArthur Foundation for the series "Teaching our Teachers," which began in your Dec. 12 issue. Teachers--now and in the future--should have the nation's attention, priority, and support if they are to carry out the awesome responsibility for nurturing our children and youth. And, clearly, how people are prepared to be teachers is a good point to start.
In reading the first report, I was struck by the failure to point out that in many debates about teacher preparation, there is one point of virtually total agreement, namely, that prospective teachers should have a student-teaching or internship experience in real schools. In addition, that experience is the one place where institutions of higher education that prepare teachers and school systems that need them must work together. And there are solid examples of such collaboration.
One set of examples are the clinical schools that have been supported with grants from the Ford Foundation over the past three years. Quietly and without fanfare, many of these schools are beginning to be education's equivalent of medicine's teaching hospitals.
They are schools already undergoing improvement; they are schools in which teachers have had training to be mentors and teachers of teachers; they are schools with diverse student bodies. They can be found in the public schools of Louisville, Ky.;Dade County, Fla.; Community District 3 of New York City; Pittsburgh; Portland, Me.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Seattle.
I hope your series will give as much attention to the clinical preparation of new teachers as you are to the academic preparation. It is equally, if not more, important.
Edward J. Meade Jr.
The writer was for many years the chief program officer in education at the Ford Foundation.
To the Editor:
Yet another call for education reform, this time focused on "Teaching our Teachers." And yet another instance in which the primary spokespersons within "education"--elementary and secondary classroom teachers--are largely ignored.
Obviously, the problems facing education are immense and pervasive. But to seek reform from those responsible for teacher training is analagous to believing Ronald Reagan's version of Iran-Contra or Nixon's view of Watergate.
John Goodlad is correct that, so long as states permit a "warm body'' approach to teacher certification whenever shortage can be argued, there will never be a firm incentive to graduate quality teacher candidates. One of so many facts that must be recognized is that, so long as education at every level is tied to public support, it will be the poor relative of other professions. Institute socialized medicine and a similar array of problems will abound.
This is not to say that nothing, therefore, can be done. Rather, the case for educational reform must be argued within the parameters of a tax-based situation: that money will never be sufficient, that so long as education is provided by the public it will be provided at the poverty level.
But the practitioners apparently have little more--perhaps not as much--faith in the job being done by teacher-training institutions than the public has, if the bar graph on "Effective Sources" you include is to be believed. On it, the perceived effectiveness of "experience" far exceeds that of the campus, although the campus may be a necessary precursor of that experience. Meanwhile, both undergraduate courses and inservice training are viewed as least effective.
Yet, instead of consulting public-school practitioners, both your article and others on the subject repeatedly look to the teacher trainers themselves to remedy the education mess.
A great many of those elementary and secondary practitioners are frustrated by the intrusions of both the state departments of education and the teacher-training institutions. This is in part due to the willingness of those agents to tell but not listen, to dictate, not cooperate; and rarely, if ever, to communicate.
In a great many instances, the "Ivory Tower" intrusions would be looked upon with great sympathy, were state officials and university/college visitors to embark upon some investment of understanding local situations.
In the meantime, potentially valuable research and theory fail to reach those most directly involved with our young people because of this lack of communication.
If education is to become a profession, it will do so only as it becomes a coalition, a partnership, of its respective components, dominated by goals rather than by position or politics.
Kenneth F. Moran
Winamac Community Middle School
To the Editor:
In his otherwise excellent Nov. 28 column (A Message From the President of the National Education Association, paid advertising), Keith Geiger was wrong to label early-childhood education in America "a profound failure" and thereby ignore its successes.
Not only public schools, but also Head Start agencies and mostly private child-care centers and homes provide many good early-childhood programs. While we still have a long way to go, the federal government did just increase Head Start funding by 26 percent and inaugurate the nation's first Child Care and Development Act.
It is a national disgrace that salaries for early-childhood teachers in the private sector are only one-third what they are in the public schools. But it is not necessary to malign or ignore the quality of existing programs in order to advocate, and eventually pay for, decent salaries for all early-childhood teachers.
Lawernce J. Schweinhart
High/Scope Educational Research Foundation
To the Editor:
Frank Carrano is a respected labor leader but he is off base on school-based management ("Training the Players for Power Sharing," Commentary, Dec. 12, 1990).
Teachers are free to become administrative decisionmakers, providedthey want to pursue the necessary degree work to become certificated administrators and are appointed to administrative positions.
Research spanning more than 20 years has concluded that schools are most effective when they have strong principals. School-based management is contrary to these findings.
The research clearly shows that principals need more authority to organize an effective school--not less. School-based management seriously erodes the authority of the principalship.
David B. Mulholland
Connecticut Federation of School Administrators