Published Online: November 25, 1998
Published in Print: November 25, 1998, as Letters

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Charter Schools Give Taxpayers A Voucher

To the Editor:

Regarding your front-page story ("Parents Ask for Waivers To Put Students Back in Bilingual Education," Nov. 11, 1998): It is truly a shame we don't have a better system of school choice in this country. If there were more charter schools, parents could just "voucher" their tax dollars to a school of their choice. They would have more control over the education of their children.

The irony here is that the parents and educators desiring a return to bilingual education are likely to be those who oppose school choice and vouchers. It is always interesting when the shoe is on the other foot.

Michael E. Tomlin
Associate Professor
College of Education
University of Idaho
Boise, Idaho

Better Transcripts for 'Hiring Smart'

To the Editor:

Joseph H. Crowley, in a recent letter to the editor, offers insightful comments on the need for employers to better articulate to schools their workforce needs ("Making Achievement Matter to Employers," Letters, Nov. 4, 1998).

We at the Business Coalition for Education Reform agree with him on this and other points; for example, that these needs must be reflected in school district standards and assessments. Holding employers, students, and schools more accountable will surely lead to higher achievement for all.

The Making Academics Count campaign is one way for employers to support higher standards for all students. ("Business Group Urges Employers To Request High School Records," Oct. 14, 1998.) It is one piece of the academic-standards movement.

Over 3,000 employers are now using school records across the country. Some of those employers use portfolios and certificates, while still others use the standard high school transcript. One consistency across business and community: Employers are using these school records as one way to get more information about potential employees. Rather than being a punitive measure, employers (large and small) treat the school record as one more way to find the best person for the job.

Applicants benefit too: They hear more clearly what it is that employers are looking for. As Mr. Crowley points out, for this initiative to work, employers must be willing to do this.

By July 1999, we will have identified 10,000 employers who are making use of such records when making entry-level hiring decisions. This will be a hard sell unless the school records are modified to highlight information that is useful to employers.

Currently, high school transcripts usually contain valuable information about a student's attendance, behavior, academic coursework, and grades--but many employers believe transcripts are not as helpful in the hiring process as they could be. The problem, employers say, is that transcripts often do not convey useful information about a student's skills, abilities, and experiences, such as internships or school-to-work activities. Moreover, because academic standards and assessments differ from school to school, employers feel grades do not provide a consistent comparison of these skills and abilities.

In response to this problem, employers and educators, such as those in the campaign's six pilot communities (the state of Maryland; Warwick, R.I.; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Greater Miami/Dade County, Fla.; Rochester, N.Y.; and northeast Ohio), are beginning to work together to develop school records that convey more objective, useful information about student performance.

"Hiring Smart: An Employer's Guide to Using School Records" is a resource developed by the National Alliance of Business that explains some of the questions concerning this issue. It outlines specific strategies that any company can use to reinforce the value of academics.

More information on this campaign is available on the World Wide Web at www.bcer.org.

Elizabeth Pauley
Business Coalition for Education Reform
National Alliance of Business
Washington, D.C.

International Study's Unreported Findings

To the Editor:

Regarding your recent article on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's report ("U.S. Graduation Rates Starting To Fall Behind," Nov. 25, 1998): You miss the most important new aspect of the report--the international increases in higher education enrollment and spending. Also omitted is the increasing international achievement gap between high- and low-performing students.

When dealing with the spending question, you fail to separate K-12 spending from higher education. This is a critical distinction, particularly for the United States, where higher education investments have traditionally been quite high.

Consequently, the reader is left with the wrongful impression that the United States has lost K-12 productivity and that the K-12 cost has increased as a proportion of gross domestic product. Neither impression is correct.

News reports influence policymakers. Consequently, accuracy and balance are essential.

William J. Mathis
Associate Professor
University of Vermont
Burlington, Vt.

Song Without Lyrics Can't Promote Drugs

To the Editor:

In reference to your news item titled "Missouri Band's Song Banned" ("News in Brief," Nov. 4, 1998), I think that the superintendent in question is taking a little issue and pushing it over the line. The marching band at Fort Zumwalt North High School spent months practicing a song and then a few parents complained about the song's lyrics--saying it glorifies drug use--and the superintendent tells the students that the song cannot be performed.

The superintendent should know that the lyrics to Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" will not be sung by the band; only the music will be played. Maybe he should ban the school's fight song, since it could be said to promote violence.

I am tired of parents ruining school-related activities by complaining to authorities that such activities should be censored.

Based on my own experience, I can say that this song, performed without the lyrics, could not have any direct association with drugs. It is ridiculous to believe that a song without lyrics could be deemed as promoting drug use. I think the students should be allowed to perform "White Rabbit."

Flynn T. Carney
Hutchinson, Kan.

Vol. 18, Issue 15, Page 39

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