I am very appreciative of “Photo Realism” about Wendy Ewald in the October issue. My 9th grade science teacher, Paul Mitschler, opened the door of photography for me. Throughout my life, there have been many occasions when I have felt alone and misunderstood by others, but I have always felt empowered by my ability to communicate through photography.
I recently took a position as a facilitator for a gifted program. A big issue with the kids I’m working with is the isolation they experience because of their “gifts.” Loneliness and insecurity are natural consequences of misunderstanding for people who perceive they are different from their peers. Empowering a person to the point of self-acceptance is a great accomplishment. Thank you, Ms. Ewald. Thank you, Mr. Mitschler.
The Kaplan Model
Reading about Stanley Kaplan’s memories and approaches to the SAT only reinforces my belief that successful teachers teach not to, but through, the SAT, or any other standardized test. [“Romancing The Test,” October 2001.] About 10 years ago, because of low SAT scores at my rural high school, the administration asked me to design and implement an SAT course. Teaching the students to think first has resulted not only in acceptances from, but academic and personal success at, top universities. Presently, Lithia Springs High School has students at Yale, Duke, Indiana, Michigan, NYU, and Emory.
Lithia Springs, Georgia
I read James Nehring’s commentary [“Certifiably Strange,” August/September] regarding his experience as a candidate for National Board certification, and I regret that it was not a more positive one. We at the National Board continuously strive to improve our internal processes, and the review of questions and comments from candidates is our most valuable resource in that task. At the same time, we stand by our standards and how we assess candidates against those standards.
There is no doubt that Nehring’s efforts as a writer and educator are an inspiration to other educators. However, the guidelines explicitly indicate that the candidate must tie the submitted evidence directly to his or her students’ learning. The certification process depends upon a teacher’s content knowledge, pedagogical skill, and professional collaborations with parents and colleagues that are clearly linked to enhanced student learning. There are many teachers engaged in valuable activities, but the connection between those activities and their students’ learning may be limited or difficult to discern. The National Board assesses for “accomplished teaching,” not only for “accomplished teachers,” a very important distinction in our mission and purpose.
As is the case for all candidates who do not achieve National Board certification on their first attempt, Nehring has two years to retake any exercise he believes will add to his repertoire as a teaching professional and help him attain the distinction of being a National Board certified teacher. I hope he will consider it.
Chair, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
My experience with the National Board parallels James Nehring’s. My theory for the National Board’s amazingly user-unfriendly approach is that certification at the national level is a management nightmare. To do such a task with limited resources, the NBPTS must place a high priority on management needs at the expense of candidates. Ask past candidates about their experiences spending hours following complicated instructions and using countless paper clips and wishing the NBPTS allowed electronic submissions. You will get a picture of an organization that demands hoop-jumping to the extreme in order to get a handle on the number of portfolios produced.
No feedback, slow retakes and score reporting, fast scoring, and the useless appeals policy hurt teachers, but that may be the only way the program can work at the national level.
Thank you for Ronald Wolk’s column “Exam Anxiety” [August/September], a very pointed criticism of President Bush’s proposed federal testing mandate as contained in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I wonder how any legislator who actually cares about schoolchildren could vote for a plan so destructive to the hopes and opportunities of poor children. This is one time when the old refrain “money alone is not enough” is certainly true. Billions tied to lies about “adequate yearly progress” measured by test scores is worse than no federal funds at all.
Garden Valley, California
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A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 2001 edition of Teacher as Letters