Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
I road with interest Scott D. Thomsen's Leadership Revisited," (Commentary, Oct. 16, 1991). He notes the plurality of views of educational leadership prevalent in the literature today and states that there is no "overarching theory of leadership." He goes on to add that since readiness for assuming leadership must be the keystone of preparation programs for educational administrators," a consensus on leadership practice would be most helpful. He suggests that a "place to begin is with the identification of certain skills and attributes of leaders."
As a graduate student in private-school administration at the University of San Francisco, I found noticeably absent from Mr. Thomson's Commentary any discussion of the place of ethics in a theory of effective leadership. While he presents a very good synthesis of key views prevalent in today's literature, he is silent on what Stephen R. Covey, in his national bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls the "character ethic."
In my opinion, an ethical system is the context for effective leadership. I subscribe to Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus's distinction between "managers" and "leaders." In their book Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge, they write: "Leaders are people who do the right thing"--not in an "efficient" way, the authors make clear, but in an "ethical" way. If educational leaders do not do the right thing, the moral thing, they will undermine their personal effectiveness and-even more detrimental--students and members of the educational community will learn the wrong code.
Professors Bennis and Nanus discuss "credibility" as one of the three major contexts of leadership, saying that "current public-sector 'checkpoints' leave little leeway for anything but rectitude and responsibility."
We have already seen the effects that a lack of morality has on our nation and government. Today we see the "effectiveness" of individuals undermined by their personal shortcomings, by faults in their personal lives. As Senator Edward M. Kennedy stated in a recent address at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, "Today, more than ever before, I believe that each of us as individuals must not only struggle to make a better world, but to make ourselves better, too."
If the educational leader is not a moral, ethical person in his or her personal life, by default he or she will foster a craft of utilitarianism in the educational institution. Scott Thomsen's emphasis on knowledge, skills, and effective communication to the exclusion of a discussion of ethics as the cornerstone of effective leadership weakened an otherwise free Commentary.
Andrew Sotelo, S.J.
Saint Ignatius College Preparatory
San Francisco, Calif..
To the Editor:
I would like to correct the statement attributed to me in your Oct. 30, 1991, issue regarding the cost of developing and administering a new national testing system ("Educators Worry Standards Movement Lacks Broad-Based Backing," Oct. 30, 1991).
You quoted me as saying that the development of a national testing system would be $3 billion, with tens of millions of dollars in operational costs. What I actually said was the opposite. The annual cost of administering such a testing system would be $3 billion, with tens of millions required for development.
How is this estimate derived? The only exemplary authentic test in relatively wide use by school-age children is the Advanced Placement test. These tests cost $65 per student. President Bush's America 2000 education plan calls for national testing of students in five subject areas; this raises the cost per student to $325. To test each child in 4th, 8th, and 12th grades, as America 2000 proposes, would be testing about 9 million children yearly (approximately 3 million in each grade level). The figure for yearly administration would be close to $3 billion.
If we are not prepared to spend $3 billion annually, then we will have more simplistic, multiple-choice tests which are generally deplored by those in the education-reform movement. Spending on testing is currently about $100 million. For comparison, Chapter 1 the most well-established federal program providing actual services to at-risk schoolchildren, costs $4.5 billion, and it has taken 25 years to reach this level of investment.
Is the federal government prepared to spend $3 billion on testing? Or are we really drifting toward nationally sanctioned multiple-choice tests?
Arthur E. Wise
National Council for Accreditation
of Teacher Education
To the Editor:
Your Special Report, "Thinking About Thinking," Oct. 9, 1992, caused me to think.
The schools are saturated with experimental programs searching for the mother lode of education. Research and advanced-degree theses scream for more and more testing in the classroom. Such testing requires, of course, multiple thousands of test specimens, that is, children, over an extended period of time (longitudinal studies).
ff all of the tests are equally successful, then all of the children are winners. But, ff some of the experimental tests are better--then the others of necessity are worse. Since we are dealing with children rather than mice or pigeons, ' the question of accepting moral responsibility for all those children exposed to failed experiments arises. Who accepts that responsibility and provides for the educational repair of those thousands of innocent test specimens?
Jack M. Pollard
Port Angeles, Wash.
To the Editor:
Daniel B. Taylor's Commentary this fall ("Half-Time Schools and Half-Baked Students," Sept. 11, 1991) marks a commendable foray into the ongoing struggle to improve the quality of American education.
A bit simplistically perhaps, Mr. Taylor seems to ascribe all of the ills of our educational system to inadequate pupil "time on task." These, he suggests, can be ameliorated by the simple expedient of extending beth the school day and the school year. After all, the school buildings are there and practice is the surest way to Carnegie Hall!
While we accept the possibilities for growth presented by increased pupil time-on-task, we cannot view it as a panacea for the multiplicity of problems confronting schools. We do recognize, with some caveats, that, being no longer bound by agrarian concerns for unfettered summers for youngsters, additional days and hours in school should be considered.
But in so doing, one must initially jettison the widely held concept that, since the school buildings are already standing and staffed, a lengthening of the school day and/or year would be free or inexpensive. Few worthwhile plans are. To begin with, school buildings, having been built with a 10-month school year concept in mind, are generally not air-conditioned and frequently close to uninhabitable as early as June 1. All would have to be air-conditioned for summer; many might even require a total rewiring or other structural changes.
Personnel for the extended day and year would also have a major financial impact. Most employees, including the members of the New York State Federation of School Administrators, belong to unions dedicated to protecting the interests of their respective memberships. Union contracts and individual workers alike could scarcely be expected to countenance increased work schedules without concomitant salary increases.
The extended school day and/or year might be a viable means of improving student performance, but it would not be an inexpensive one.
Financial considerations become less compelling, however, if the results are a more effective schooling for our youngsters. Would an extended school day/year accomplish this? Not necessarily, we believe. The youngster who has not been motivated to an awareness of the need for school, the one who has not learned to read, to understand the intricacies of algebra or a foreign language, will probably not be more successful in academics if subjected to larger doses of the same, .. ineffective formula.
Similarly, the child who does not learn because of poor nutrition, truancy, neglect, parental discord, and a host of other familiar and social problems is not likely to be more successful as a result of increased exposure to already frustrating experiences in school. Clearly, supplemental support services coupled with other means of reaching and assisting such youngsters must be provided. These, too, require the allocation of funds.
As suggested in President Bush's America 2000 plan, any viable initiative must provide safeguards to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure that our neediest do not become further disadvantaged. Cash stipends or incentives would have to be provided for students who would otherwise be required to work during non-school hours to help support their families. Without such help, these youngsters could be expected either to attend reluctantly or to be truant entirely. Obviously, either scenario would severely inhibit the chance for success.
In short, we would be very much in favor of extending beth the school day and the school year in a sincere effort to improve the education of our youngsters. But it must be understood in advance that any such extension would, without guaranteeing results, require considerable funding for building changes, for augmented staff salaries, for additional social programs and support personnel. Only then would a program that appears to be a very necessary one have a reasonable chance for success.
We hope that the requisite finds can be provided to initiate such a program, if only on a pilot basis. We owe our children no less.
New York State Federation of
To the Editor: I am sorry that Edward A. Rauchut has found it necessary to comment so negatively upon the public schools of the United States ("Teacher Says, 'I Quit,'" Commentary, Oct. 30, 1991).
What I am not sorry about is the fact that Mr. Rauchut has quit his job as a public-school teacher.
Mr. Rauchut's contentions that the conditions he describes are "systemic" and that "the majority of our children are not learning in the public schools" are, at best, his opinions or, at worst, blatant falsehoods.
I would suggest that Mr. Rauchut refer to the Oct. 9, 1991, front-page story in your publication entitled "Report Questioning 'Crisis' in Education Triggers an Uproar," or to the long piece by Gerald W. Bracey in the October issue of Phi Delta Kappan entitled "The Big Lie About U.S. Education." At least those sources cite research-based data. Mr. Rauchut would rather base his views on self-serving, personal observations made at only two sites, New York City and one school in the Midwest.
I would venture that the "monopoly founded on anti- intellectualism and bogus theories of learning' is probably better off since Mr. Rauchut left.
John J. Pilibesian
Augustine F. Maloney Elementary School
To the Editor:
It is true there are times of' frustration, even discontent, within any educational system. There are times when we all want to throw in the towel and call it quits, as Edward A. Rauchut chose to do. But at those times, we need only to look into the faces of the children before us to realize that, for many of them, we are the only link to stability in their lives.
Change takes time, and in education, it may take longer than in other professions. The status quo can change, Mr. Rauchut, but the change must begin at the college level, where you now teach.
There are exceptions, of course, but teachers coming out of schools of education are very of@en inadequately prospered. The nature of teacher education--and that includes courses in school administration-must change radically. There must be more hands-on training of prospective teachers and administrators. That will begin to change the system, by weeding out those who should not enter the field.
Mr. Rauchut writes that when he was cleaning out his desk, the 'image of media centers, computer classes, cooperative-learning strategies, and other "vacuous" educational gadgets and fads ran through his mind. I would suggest to him that these are not fads, but the means that dedicated educators are using to try to upgrade the learning process for their students. He can't have it both ways--on the one hand condemning the status quo, on the other, condemning changes in methodology.
Jack E. Sotsky
Glen Cove, N.Y.