Because I did not receive National Board certification on my first try and am applying again, I understand James Nehring's disappointment at not achieving certification ["Certifiably Strange," August/September]. However, he neglected to tell the whole story about the scoring process. The area of the portfolio on which he scored poorly, Collaboration in the Professional Community, is not the most heavily weighted. Actual work with students accounts for almost half his score. He could have earned the lowest score possible for his professional contributions and still earned more than enough points to certify. I challenge Nehring to publish the rest of his scores. I hazard to guess that he received more than one low score.
National Board teachers are not all published authors or school founders. They are the accomplished teachers in classrooms across America. They are reflective and proactive. They strive to make the learning environments in their classrooms conducive to the highest student achievement. The assessors who scored Nehring's entry have never been in his classroom. The only documentation of his work was what he provided. If he failed to show how his work impacted the achievement of children, the assessors had no choice but to give him a substandard score. Nehring cannot blame the assessors or the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for his failure to certify. He needs to be reflective and honest about his work.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
There are Kafkaesque situations in education today, but James Nehring's ordeal with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards should not be considered among them. While Nehring left readers with little doubt that his collaboration in the professional community has been substantial and important, it remains unclear exactly how this collaboration has had a positive impact on teaching and learning. If Nehring were to have won a Nobel Prize, he would still need to link explicitly this accomplishment to his teaching practice.
Eminently successful teachers can have difficulty documenting their practice in a way that satisfies the NBPTS, but this is a necessary consequence of having a valid evaluation system. While temporarily frustrating for a few teachers, this state of affairs hardly shows the NBPTS to be an inexorable bureaucracy. Nor is Nehring's effort to gain National Board certification futile and absurd. Furthermore, NBPTS is taking active steps to streamline and clarify the certification process.
For the sake of fairness and accuracy, Teacher Magazine should use the adjective "Kafkaesque" more carefully.
National Board Certified
Adolescence and Young
Ronald Wolk's perceptive column "Exam Anxiety" [August/September] expressed my own thoughts in such a focused and organized way that I cut it out and plan to make copies for all the teachers and parents in my school.
As a 4th grade teacher in New Jersey who must give the Elementary School Proficiency Assessments each May, I concur wholeheartedly with his conclusions about testing grades 3-5. We get no scores until well into the next school year, and they have been given as total scores with no diagnoses so far. In fact, until last year, teachers never got the scores at all and were not given a chance to see a sample test. In addition, temporary workers-who do not need to be teachers or know about 10-year-olds and their capabilities-are hired to score students' essays. Until this year, the 8th grade rubric was used to score 4th graders' essays!
Martin Luther King
Piscataway, New Jersey
I'm a German exchange teacher in the Texas public school system, and I liked your story in the May/June issue about the Palestinian teacher in Chicago ["Yousef Hannon's Story"].
I've been here for 11 years. I went from a safe private boarding school in Switzerland to the inner city of San Antonio.
I met the most beautiful children, in the richest country in the world, with the most incredible situations at home. As a European, it is especially challenging to deal with children who were born in jail, or whose parents don't care, or who don't even have parents. I hope that I inspire some of my students to a better future.
San Antonio, Texas,
The recent article "Lost Children" [May/June] was an informative look into youth suicide. It was quite a revelation to read that adolescent youth "don't comprehend in a rational sense that death is final" and that some "see suicide as the end of their problems, not their existence."
I wanted to add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the list of reasons why youth commit suicide. More than 60 percent of all male suicide victims are gay, and about 30 percent of gay male teenagers attempt suicide each year. Sexual-minority youth face harassment from peers and faculty; rejection from family members, friends, and role models; and isolation because they feel that they are the only ones.
It is important for faculty, staff, and administrators to understand that they can play a significant role in reducing these alarming numbers by being sensitive to the needs of sexual-minority youth.
Middle School of the Arts
West Palm Beach, Florida
I was very frustrated after reading "Hooking New Teachers" [May/June], which describes incentives for new teachers because of the teacher shortage. I earned my teaching credential in English in 1999 but was unable to find a teaching position during the last school year. This year, I got a job in California working as an ESL teacher in a Title I school. There are no incentives, just lies.
I was told that, after working in a Title I school for five years, my loans (over $20,000 needed to pay for teacher-credential courses and student teaching) would be waived. However, the Department of Education said I did not qualify because I had taken out the wrong type of loan. Also, to get loans waived, teachers must be working in a needed subject area: ESL, special education, math, or science. I have the right subject area, just the wrong loan. There is a program that waives half of a teacher's loans, but I was not notified about it until it was too late. Apparently, I had to sign up for this program before my first teacher- credential class. How convenient!
No wonder there is a teacher shortage.
Citrus Heights, California
I returned to my school from the Iditarod Trail in Alaska to find the "Extreme Teaching" issue [April] in the faculty room. How appropriate, since I had just returned from such an experience. Thank you for writing about unique teaching experiences.
Clinton Township, New Jersey
Teacher Magazine welcomes the opinions and comments of its readers. Letters should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited for clarity and length. Articles for the "Comment" section fall under two general headings: Viewpoint and First Person. Essays should run approximately 1,000 to 1,750 words (four to five double-spaced pages) in length. All letters and submissions should include an address and phone number. Mail them to:
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Vol. 13, Issue 2, Page 6