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To the Editor:

Cornelius Riordan has provided an invaluable context for the questions surrounding the issues of gender equity in our nation's schools and the consideration of alternatives in school choice ("Reconsidering Single-Gender Schools,'' Commentary, Feb. 23, 1994).

I hope the wealth of research he cites substantiating the positive effects of single-sex schools, versus the unthinking acceptance of coeducation as the only way to educate students, will not only help parents consider single-sex schools for their children, but also move them to pressure public school systems to offer a range of options, including that of single-sex. These options should not be the sole province of those able to afford a private education.

A possible solution lies in the already existing model of the magnet school. Originally established in the 1970's as an aid to desegregation, magnet schools offer unique educational programs and pedagogies for targeted populations. Our nation should consider creating single-sex schools as magnet schools for both boys and girls. Requiring a relatively inexpensive reallocation of facilities and staff, these schools would exist to provide educational environments tailored more closely to the needs of special populations, whether based on race or gender.

America has always embraced experimentation and diversity. Given the very real question of how well most schools presently serve their students, the single-sex option is a concept worth considering.

Elsa M. Bowman
Garrison Forest School
Owings Mills, Md.

The writer is the president of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools.

To the Editor:

When you look for truth through a prism only a fraction of it can be seen, the rest is colored over, hidden, obscured. The prism John Merrow looked through in his essay "'Don't Offend': Our High-Level Policy of Cowardice'' (Commentray, Feb. 16, 1994), never allowed him to view state educational reforms as others might see them--as (real or imagined) threats to their individual liberty.

In Mr. Merrow's view, anyone who dares question the validity of the state attempting to establish its version of a common school ethos through compulsory, government-controlled education must surely be considered some kind of right-wing, Christian-fundamentalist nut case, forever bent on sacrificing high academic achievement on the altar of educational purity. Such myopic vision serves only to provide shelter to those who could care less about real educational reform. Their only truth is to maintain the present system at all costs, under any guise, even if it means putting our future as a nation and as a people at risk.

David Farrar
Choice in Education Committee
Dade County, Fla.

To the Editor:

How disappointing to read that Albert Shanker and the American Federation of Teachers have called for a "moratorium'' on full inclusion for learners with disabilities ("A.F.T. Urges Halt to 'Full Inclusion' Movement,'' Jan. 12, 1994). Mr. Shanker and the A.F.T. must be desperate for membership to go public with such a "teacher protection'' position. I find it reprehensible to blame a minority group of learners for making the workplace environment uncomfortable for educators.

The union's position certainly underestimates the competence and abilities of most professional educators, who are focused on the future and work hard to create learning environments for all children in our public schools.

The concept of "regular'' classroom is rapidly evolving into different places than we typically know--places where students will be prepared for their futures. Competent educators are very much aware that schooling must include all children who live in our communities.

People who want to deny minority learners in education a typical school environment, or who consider inclusion to be an "experiment,'' should not be in the profession. We need to move our society forward, not retard it through perpetuating the exclusion of some of our citizens.

Tass F. Morrison
Coordinator, Student Services
Corvallis School District 509J
Corvallis, Ore.

To the Editor:

Anyone who has tried to question how and why fractions are taught in the elementary school doubtless will agree with Steven Leinwand ("It's Time To Abandon Computational Algorithms,'' Commentary, Feb. 9. 1994) that schools by and large are "powerful perpetuators of what they've always done.'' He fails to mention, however, the stubborness of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the most formidable setter of math curricula in the country, in this regard. The N.C.T.M. has become one of the "enormous obstacles to making these changes'' in fractions instruction.

I found this out after I recently analyzed the reasons given by the N.C.T.M. and others for the formal teaching of the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of fractions to children. I could discover no empirical evidence that supported this instruction.

The N.C.T.M. summarily rejected for publication the report of my investigation. It was welcomed, however, by two foreign journals, Mathematics Teaching (the official organ of the British Association of Teachers of Mathematics), and the International Journal of Mathematics Education in Science and Technology. It appears, then, that only American teachers will be denied this critical information about fractions instruction.

Indeed, it is time to release math education from the "discriminatory shackles'' that Mr. Leinwand correctly observes are a handicap to its progress. Noting the extraordinary power of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, however, the question that remains is, how is this to be accomplished?

Patrick Groff
Professor Emeritus of Education
San Diego State University
San Diego, Calif.

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