Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Since your Feb. 10, 1993, story, "Minneapolis Schools Chief Suspended in Flap Over Finances,'' Honeywell Inc. has received several inquiries from current and prospective customers asking exactly how the "$7.4 million contract with Honeywell Inc. had been bungled.''
We want to make it clear that Honeywell was performing work with a letter of intent from the Minneapolis School Board and operating under its direction since April 1992. The board delayed the actual contract signing due to several missteps by school administrators in managing the contract-approval process. The process was delayed by several months and caused Honeywell to lose several hundred thousand dollars in 1992.
The Minneapolis School Board unanimously approved the contract on Jan. 12, 1993, and thanked Honeywell for its patience and perseverance during the last several months.
The contract with Honeywell is, in fact, part of the solution to the school board's problems. It is a "performance contract,'' designed to help the Minneapolis Public Schools upgrade building facilities without paying any money up front. Performance contracting enables school districts to finance upgrades, repairs, and replacements of building systems with future energy and operational savings. In Minneapolis, the savings will be used to pay for the improvements over a 10-year period. After the guarantee period, additional savings can be redirected into academic programs--where money is needed most.
Honeywell believes that rebuilding America's educational system is ultimately the responsibility of everyone, including business. We have therefore made a commitment to improving the American educational system so that our children will be able to compete in the global economy. We view this commitment as an investment in the future, and have dedicated ourselves to supporting education through our business, foundation, volunteerism, and the creation of innovative education programs.
Education Week misrepresented the facts about Honeywell's contract with the Minneapolis School Board, and we urge you to print this letter to clarify our position.
Joseph M. George
Schools and Colleges Business Unit
To the Editor:
When I have talked to, or been interviewed by Education Week reporters, they have emphasized the importance of balance in their articles. I was thus shocked at the inexplicably sloppy, error-filled, one-sided presentation of information about schools in your special section, "From Risk To Renewal'' (Feb. 10, 1993). A few mistakes:
1. You assert that "in the past 10 years, the number and proportion of students scoring above 650 on the [Scholastic Aptitude Test] verbal or math section has actually declined.'' False, and inexcusable for you to say otherwise. The numbers you give for 1982, 29,236 students on the verbal and 71,916 on the math are correct. Those you give for 1992, however, are only the figures for those scoring between 650 and 690. The total numbers above 650 are 32,903 for verbal, 104,401 for mathematics. That looks like quite an improvement to me.
2. You state that our students lag in international comparisons of mathematics and science and present statistics on this. Ignoring whether or not multiple-choice tests given in grades 4 and 8 mean anything, you then ignore that our students do very, very well in international comparisons of reading, a much more important skill. You ignore Ian Westbury's analysis of data from the Second International Mathematics Study and you ignore the fact that the 95th percentile in most countries is virtually identical. You ignore other indices of mathematics and science achievement.
3. You present statistics on Graduate Record Examination and College Board Achievement scores without presenting changes in the numbers of students taking them. This is very misleading. Although the number of high school seniors has declined every year since 1977, the number taking the tests has increased, which might well lead one to expect a decline. But scores are up.
4. You ignore that the number of students taking Advanced Placement Tests has increased almost four-fold, but the average score has declined by only 0.11 of a point.
5. You fail entirely to discuss the research of the Sandia engineers, David Berliner, Richard Jaeger, Iris Rotberg, or myself. Some balance.
I have written one article, "The Media's Myth of School Failure,'' which, of course, since the thesis is true, no one will publish. But it is depressing to see you buying so much into the myth. It cost you a great deal of credibility in my eyes.
Gerald W. Bracey
Editor's Note: Contrary to Mr. Bracey's assertion that Education Week is part of a media effort to ignore a particular position, the newspaper has devoted considerable attention over the past few years to the arguments of Mr. Bracey and others about the quality of education. The special report itself highlights these--and quotes Mr. Bracey--as one of the milestones in our chronology of school reform.
On his specific point about high scorers on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, Mr. Bracey is correct that the numbers for 1992 indicate only those who scored between 650 and 699, and he is correct that the numbers increased slightly on the verbal section and substantially on the math section between 1981 and 1992. However, as he fails to mention, the proportion of students at or above that level--3 percent in verbal and 7 percent in math--remained the same over the decade.
Other indicators used throughout the report were selected because they coincided with those used by the National Commission on Excellence in Education and were used for purposes of comparison.
To the Editor:
I have been a subscriber to Education Week for the past five years. As much as I like the newspaper--I have even made use of your class-subscription program--there is one point that has bothered me ever since receiving my first issue.
I still recall, while reading an article in that issue, being struck by the fact that your editorial style has people with medical degrees referred to as "Dr. A'' while even the most prominent and highly-educated educators are referred to as simply "Ms. Darling-Hammond'' or "Mr. Boyer.'' Over the years, this editorial practice has continued to bother me.
It struck me anew today, when in reading about the racial difficulties in Centinela Valley, Calif. ("Threat To Halt Funds Latest Chapter in Racially Charged Drama in Calif.,'' Feb. 17, 1993), I saw that the former principal, Kenneth Crowe, was referred to as "Dr. Crowe'' in a direct quote, while the next text sentence started with "Mr. Crowe.''
In our society, to knowingly call someone "Mr.'' or "Ms.'' when he or she has earned the title "Dr.'' has become a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) put down. It seems particularly ironic that a publication devoted to education makes such an obvious point of not using society's title denoting advanced educational achievement. I should think Education Week would not want to appear disrespectful of those people who not only supposedly are exemplars of our education system, but who continue to toil on its behalf.
I can understand that it may, at times, be difficult to ascertain whether a story source has a doctorate, whether to use the title in the case of honorary doctorates, and so forth, but I don't see the use of "Mr.'' and "Ms.'' as the best alternative. Instead, I urge you to follow the practice of most newspapers and not use titles at all. Not using the "Mr.'' and "Ms.'' titles also avoids subtle gender distinctions that generally are irrelevant to the story but that, unfortunately, tend to be unconsciously reinforced each time a "Mr.'' or "Ms.'' appears.
Education Week is an excellent publication. It will serve education even better, however, once its editorial style is brought into the 1990's.
Moorhead State University
To the Editor:
I was very concerned by how easily student achievement was dismissed in your article, "Early Star, Paideia Has Had Its Ups and Downs'' (Feb. 17, 1993).
You report that a central tenet of the Paideia proposal is that "the best education for the best is the best education for all.'' I did not have from the story, however, a clear understanding of what "the best'' is. I assume Mortimer Adler means European when he calls for best and classical. He is quoted as saying that "all this multicultural stuff is bunk.'' He is also quoted as saying, "All things in the realm of truth are transcultural.''
Does this mean that non-European ideas, values, and models must be extrapolated from the "best European'' ideas, values, and models, whatever those are as determined by Europeans?
You note in the article that whether or not the transformation by Paideia is raising student achievement at the school is, for now, an unanswered question. If this is unknown, my question is why? If student achievement is not occurring, why do Paideia? Can minority students afford such a luxury?
Robert D. Brazil, the principal of Sullivan High School in Chicago, says his school progressed from the 36th percentile to the 39th or 40th percentile on standardized test scores. Much greater progress has been made by the Lincoln High School in the Dallas Independent School District with highly structured multicultural media, which Paideia disdains. Could Education Week do a piece on Lincoln High School?
The Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences magnet school reported that 90 percent of the students from two graduating classes went on to four-year colleges. But we are not told how these students were selected for the magnet or whether 90 percent of them would have gone without Paideia.
Finally, we are told that improvements in pupils' writing and reasoning abilities have been documented at four inner-city Chicago schools that used the Paideia approach, but we were not told how much improvement occurred or how this achievement was documented. Minority children and poor children of any color need to achieve academically. Presently, they need to demonstrate this achievement on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the American College Testing program test.
Barbara A. Sizemore
School of Education
To the Editor:
The good news about the vacancies at the top of the nation's three largest school systems, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles (Fernandez Ousted as Schools Chief in New York City, Feb. 17, 1993), is that they provide an upward-mobility path for all the school superintendents who have been tarred, feathered, and run out on a rail from smaller cities.
B. Freer Freeman
To the Editor:
Thank you very much for publishing my essay "Alice in Reformland'' (Commentary, Feb. 17, 1993). Last week, 18 people called me to comment on it; several requested permission to reprint. All of which affirmed the widespread and thoughtful readership your paper has.
However, I would like to correct the omission of one important word. In discussing The Washington Post story on a survey conducted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Sylvan Learning Centers, I was trying to make the point that students had not been asked in that poll to focus on their parents, or to give grades to parents (as the Post article implied). Students were asked a question about most parents in the neighborhood in which they lived. They were not asked about their own parent(s). With the omission of the word "their'' in the Commentary, this point isn't clear.
Center for School Change
University of Minnesota
To the Editor:
Thank you for Joe Nathan's "Alice in Reformland'' Commentary. I especially appreciated his comments under the heading, "Ignoring Outstanding Teachers.'' I tried to make much the same point in a New York Times "Letter to the Editor'' a couple of years ago.
It is very difficult for veteran classroom teachers to get even perfunctory hearings, regardless of our accomplishments. Most often we are seen as chief causes of educational problems--people to be pensioned off as rapidly as possible.