Letters To The Editor
School Critics 'Disclosure' Should Also Cover Insiders
To the Editor:
If David Marshak ("Require Truth-in-Commentary Disclosures," May 8, 1996) was paid for his Commentary, I believe he has violated his own "modest proposal" and should report to the nearest school of his choice to begin his 100 hours of "punishment." Regardless, true modesty would suggest that, even if Mr. Marshak's ilk are immune from "truth in commentary," nonpaid commentators who want paid commentators to change should lead by example.
Although unpaid for this letter, I am providing the following information per Mr. Marshak's suggestion: (1) I was in my local middle school two weeks ago for two hours to watch my daughter in her school play. (2) In the last five years, I have been in at least 50 schools around the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, days at a time in each building, as a trainer, consultant, and evaluator. I observed, taught, trained, and/or talked with students, parents, administrators, teachers, and school board members, both in and out of classrooms, in most of those schools. (3) My opinion expressed above is based on my actual experience as a change agent working with school district personnel, who invariably express a desire for those espousing advice to "walk their talk."
By the way, when were you last in a school, Mr. Marshak?
Yes, Grade Inflation Begins In Teacher-Education
To the Editor:
Patrick Groff's letter to the editor (May 8, 1996) was critical of a recent Commentary I wrote on grade compression ("There's No Such Thing As Grade Inflation," April 17, 1996). His main complaint was apparently that I did not include professors of education ("miscreants" was his term) in the group of major offenders contributing to the problem.
Let me set the record straight. He's right. It is widely known that colleges of education set the standard for grade inflation. It is even reasonable to surmise that elementary and secondary school teachers learn the practice from their education professors. A recent review article by Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University, summarized the sorry state of affairs and called on educators to lead the way in correcting the problem.
My Commentary was intended for an audience of elementary and secondary school teachers, though perhaps, as Mr. Groff suggests, grade inflation is a "top down" problem.
Gregory J. Cizek
Educate More Adults on Dangers of Inhalants
To the Editor:
I was pleased that you reported on the need for elementary educators to be aware of inhalant substances (Health Update, March 27, 1996). So many of these products are not recognized by adults as potentially abusable, but as many as one-fifth of all students have deliberately inhaled gases or fumes at least once. This is a dangerous category of abusable substance, because the abuser is equally liable to die or be seriously impaired at first use or any subsequent use.
The list of abusable chemicals includes propellant gases in spray cans, lighter fluid, gasoline, propane fuel, and over 1,000 other products. National studies have found that many students report being able to get access to these products easily--and that many adults don't even know they are a category of abusable substances.
To avoid problems, we need to raise awareness and to target inhalants in preventive education. There are very few resources, however, and funding is needed to provide materials, curricula, information kits, and the like.
All parents and all people who work with children need to know more about huffing, sniffing, bagging, and ballooning--all forms of inhaling dangerous chemicals. For further information, readers should call the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at (800) 269-4237.
Isabel Burk Regional Coordinator
Safe and Drug-Free Schools
Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
Teacher-Development Pullout Slights Classroom Governance
To the Editor:
The "Inquiring Minds" pullout section of April 17, 1996, dealing with teacher professional development, is painfully silent on a matter addressed by Seymour Sarason in his latest book, Barometers of Change (Jossey-Bass, 1996). The quote from Mr. Sarason reads: " ... no significant improvement in educational outcomes can be expected unless there are changes in the existing governance structure of schools and classrooms." (He immediately adds that "these changes ... are necessary but not sufficient prerequisites for improved educational outcomes" and tells why.)
Edward Pauly, in his extraordinary book The Classroom Crucible (Basic Books, 1992) provides substantial research-based information in support of Mr. Sarason's thesis.
It often appears that the least well-informed and those with especially poor understanding of educators' problems are educators themselves. If they are prepared best to be "hired hands" in a moribund school culture ignoring the impact of organizational structures and behavior, then the pullout section is something of a disservice.