Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Your article entitled "Teacher Programs at Dartmouth, Wesleyan in Jeopardy'' (Sept. 22, 1993) explains the resistance of faculty members and administrators at these two institutions to teacher-certification programs at their schools. Although the story does not say so, implicit in these attitudes is the extent to which many, if not most, of our nation's liberal-arts and sciences institutions reject teacher training as a legitimate mission.
This is a matter that calls for a much wider debate, but, in this letter, I would point out one central issue: Significant educational reform in America will result only when our best students choose to become teachers and educational leaders.
Many of our brightest students matriculate at our great liberal-arts colleges and universities, and these students should be encouraged to consider teaching as a career.
I think it not an overstatement to say that Dartmouth College, Wesleyan University, and other like-minded liberal-arts institutions are morally obligated to serve our country's children--not to mention their own students--by providing teacher-education programs as integral components in their curricula.
Department of Education
To the Editor:
It is always encouraging to read of districts willing to take the risk of organizing schools in new and unconventional structures. I commend those communities in Florida and Virginia for their courage in creating 9th-grade centers to meet the unique needs of this age group ("Special School Reduces 'Distractions' for 9th Graders,'' Sept. 22, 1993).
From personal experience, however, I must point out the potential pitfalls of this organizational arrangement. These schools can anticipate a number of parental objections. There will be a continuing concern that a one-year structure does not allow sufficient time for continuity in important social and cultural aspects of a school: student government, staff-student relationships, desirable upperclass role models. Further, the unique 9th-grade structure will be the scapegoat for problems typical of any school--smoking, fighting, and name-calling.
Moreover, articulation with lower and upper grades will present a difficult and dual challenge, with the 9th-grade staff having to coordinate curriculum and instruction with both K-8 and 10-12 faculty and administration. Despite the best promotional efforts of school and district leadership, many administrators and faculty members of conventional schools will view the 9th-grade center as "neither fish nor fowl.'' Finally, parents of outstanding athletic performers may decry the limited opportunities of freshmen competition.
Regrettably, there is very little research to support one type of grade-level organization over another. I recommend, therefore, that districts contemplating 9th-grade centers visit communities with experience in establishing and abolishing such structures, for example, the Redding, Fresno, and Berkeley districts in California. Such visits will provide valuable insights from parents and staff who have first-hand experience in the benefits and limitations of conventional schooling.
Joseph M. Appel
Regional High School District
To the Editor:
In your Sept. 15, 1993, issue you report the results of a federally sponsored study that found about half of American adults illiterate ("Half of Adults Lack Skills To Function Fully in Society, Literacy Study Finds''). The study also found that many of the persons who were low in skills did not realize it.
In the same issue was a story about a Delaware teacher, Adele Jones, who was fired for failing students who did not learn their math ("Not Making the Grade,'' Sept. 15, 1993). The principal of Ms. Jones's school, John McCarthy, seemed to feel he had to stop Ms. Jones from informing students that they were not doing passing work. He implied that it was bad for their self-esteem.
It is because of educators with this mindset that (a) we have many illiterates who do not realize they are illiterate, and (b) we will continue to increase the number of adults who may feel good about themselves but are nonetheless illiterate.
Is the world-class workforce we are to produce for the future defined as "persons who are illiterate but feel good about it''?
Paul B. Hinds
Math and Physics Teacher
To the Editor:
The "outcomes revolt'' in Pennsylvania has earned the publicity you gave it in your front-page story ("Pennsylvania Parent Becomes Mother of 'Outcomes Revolt,''' Sept. 22, 1993). Peg Luksik has been an effective spokesperson and crusader.
Informing parents and taxpayers about proposed changes in education in Pennsylvania was a task assumed a year and a half ago by a group that formed the Pennsylvania Coalition for Academic Excellence. It included Peg Luksik, Anita Hoge, Nancy Staible, Michael Geer, a representative of the Pennsylvania Leadership Council, representatives of more than a dozen additional organizations, and a number of other individuals. Some of those groups and individuals, in their own way, have helped in the crisscrossing of our broad state and, in some cases, carrying our message to legislators and meetings in other states.
No mention was made in your article about B.K. Eakman's book, Educating for the New World Order, which tells the story of Anita Hoge's recognized complaint against the federal government for psychological testing in the schools without prior, written parental consent.
Concern about who gets credit for what is not my motive for writing. It is, rather, the fact that research into educational restructuring nationwide has progressed well beyond merely student-learning outcomes and outcome-based classroom methodology. I request a follow-up article to have you provide your readers with "the rest of the story.''
To the Editor:
Parents for Public Schools is grateful for your coverage of our organization, and our efforts to maintain and grow middle-class enrollment and involvement in our nation's public schools ("Mississippi Group Forms a National Network To Involve Parents in School-Reform Efforts,'' Sept. 8, 1993).
Let me assure you and your readers, however, that P.P.S. wholeheartedly endorses and supports the Parent Teacher Associations. We encourage all of our members to join the P.T.A. as well. Working together, Parents for Public Schools and the P.T.A. can provide the means for parents to improve their public schools to the standards of excellence that Americans expect and deserve.
Joshua J. Wiener
Parents for Public Schools