Goals 2000 Working Well in Washington State
To the Editor:
I was surprised to see a National Enquirer-like headline on a front-page story in Education Week ("Goals 2000 Loses Its Way on Standards," Jan. 22, 1997). Most of the article, it seemed to me, was about how Goals 2000 is working. The unfortunate headline seized on the musings of a couple of policymakers who probably have much more complex views on the subject than those quoted.
It doesn't look like Goals 2000 is "lost" from my perspective. It can still meet its promise if only we stay on the trail. We're only three years into a generational journey; we can't expect to be there already. The new supportive approach embodied in Goals 2000 means that each state is going to "do its own thing."
Moreover, your article does not seem to recognize that Goals 2000 is an integrating vehicle for what was to be an interconnected set of new federal programs. I don't think that "Click and Clack" of National Public Radio's "Car Talk" would recommend throwing out a transmission because the car's wheels aren't on yet.
The state of Washington has embraced the opportunity presented by Goals 2000. Our legislature has invested state money for standards, new assessments, and professional development at five times the rate of the Goals 2000 funds we have received. Our business community and teachers' unions are on board. Our new state superintendent of public instruction, Terry Bergeson, was the executive director of the commission developing state standards and assessments. Almost all of our schools have site plans to bring student learning up to state standards.
Over half the state's districts are developing and implementing (with Goals 2000 funds) comprehensive district plans for improving student learning, including curriculum alignment and professional development. Our universities are aligning their admissions standards and teacher-preparation curriculum with our state K-12 standards. Nearly 60,000 4th grade students (representing about 85 percent of Washington's school districts) participated in the voluntary pilot test of the new state assessments in reading, writing, communications, and mathematics. Our public schools and universities will all be networked together within two years.
It looks to me like Goals 2000 is going just where it was designed to go: supporting systemic state and local initiatives to improve student learning. If some states have not yet taken the initiative to develop tough standards, but have focused instead on technology, so be it. They will have to catch up with the rest of us pretty soon, and we will have to catch up with them.
Goals 2000 is about systemic reform of a complex system. Standards are one important element; so are curriculum alignment, relevance, new learning technologies, improved governance, community engagement, and other areas. Each state (and each district) is starting at a different point and going about it in a different way. That is the strength of Goals 2000: It supports state and local initiatives.
The weakness is that all constructive learning takes a while, especially in a group setting.
Washington Goals 2000
The Arts Are a Vital Part of High-Quality Education
To the Editor:
In Quality Counts, your supplement on educational progress in the states, you reported only on the "core" education subjects as you view them, rather than as they are defined by Goals 2000 legislation. In particular, you chose to neglect the arts, as well as foreign languages and technology. ("Quality Counts,"Education Week special supplement, Jan. 22, 1997.)
As the director of marketing and membership for the Barbershop Harmony Society, the world's largest all-male singing organization, I can assure you that we feel music education (part of the Goals 2000 arts curriculum) is, indeed, "core." Music adds value to one's life in innumerable ways and should be an ongoing component of a young person's education. In addition, studies have shown that students engaged in arts study have improved cognitive and social skills.
An education is not complete without the arts. We strongly feel that Education Week should report on all the core subjects outlined in Goals 2000, not just those it has redefined as core.
Gary M. Stamm
To the Editor:
The nations that are outperforming us in education teach music--deliberately, not accidentally. Research shows that early music education develops students who comprehend and learn other subjects better. Music and other arts were included in the Goals 2000 package. Students with music training perform better on the SAT I: Reasoning Test than do students without such training.
Those who are educating well do not ignore music. I hope that you won't in the future.
Cliff Ganus 3rd
To the Editor:
I was extremely disappointed that Education Week did not address the arts in its report on the status of education, state by state. The arts are defined as "core" subjects by the federal government under Goals 2000 and also by our state government, which has included coursework and practice in music, literature, theater, dance, and visual arts in our state education standards. These areas will be assessed along with math, science, and the other "core" subjects.
Regardless of how one feels about the government's defining anything, the arts are being taught in every school in America in one form or another and have been since this country was founded. Whether we take the teaching and learning of art forms seriously is directly linked to making schools accountable for assessing art education as they assess language and math skills.
Math and science mean nothing if we cannot effectively communicate theories through language, pictures, sounds, and movement.
South Dakotans for the Arts
To the Editor:
I am very concerned that your recent special report on the quality of education neglected the arts. As part of Goal 3 of the Goals 2000 program, the arts are an integral part of a student's education. It is most disturbing that an organization concerned with the quality of education would completely ignore this area. Please reconsider your current policy and fix this as soon as possible.
In 'Ebonics' Debate, Respect, Rigor Not Mutually Exclusive
To the Editor:
Shelby Steele shows in his Commentary, "Indoctrination Isn't Teaching," Jan. 29, 1997, that ideology is more important to him than phenomena, in particular, the academic success of low-income, urban African-American children.
Mr. Steele argues that the ebonics program intended by the Oakland, Calif., public schools emphasizes self-esteem and racial identity and "makes broken English the equivalent of standard English." Only in his ideological mirror.
Many low-income, urban African-American children learn to speak a version of English that is different from standard English. Call it broken if you want, call it ebonics, call it slang, or call it a dialect. What matters is that these children learn this version of English at home, and they bring it to school.
If we treat their language as a set of errors, as something wrong or broken, then we treat them with contempt. And they understand this.
If we treat their language with respect--it is their language, after all--then we treat them with the respect due all children in schools. If we do this, then we can teach them that there is another version of English, standard English, that is required in the larger society now for academic and economic success for most people.
When I taught my 9th grade English students to say "ask" many years ago, I had to begin by understanding what they meant when they said "ax" and by respecting their knowledge in using that pronunciation.
If we start not from ideology but from the detail of children's experience, then we know that we must respect who children are when they come to school, including their language, if we hope to engage them, as Mr. Steele suggests, in developing academic mastery. It's not either respecting children or enacting a commitment to academic rigor. It's both.
And to Mr. Steele I would say: Let's give a rest to the "Egyptians flying to work in gliders" citation. You can find something absurd in every human cause, every social movement on the planet. If you want to critique Afrocentrism, make your case directly. Forget about the gliders.