Thank you for “The Return of Laura Marks” [November/December]. It was insightful as well as disturbing. I also was threatened and attacked by a student at my high school, and I understand Marks’ feelings of despair and self-doubt. Most disturbing for me was the lack of support that I received from my administration, superintendent, local education association, and colleagues. The student was not disciplined by my district and was allowed to return after a short medical/ psychological testing period. When I decided to press charges, I went to court alone. The student was put on probation for a year and apologized to me in court, but I find that, after 32 years, my loyalty to “my school” is gone. Rather than a love, teaching has become just a job.
Barbara Ann De Caro
Hillsdale, New Jersey
I was disappointed to see the excerpt by Stanley Kaplan, “Romancing the Test,” [October] without a sidebar to alleviate the completely positive picture of the SAT. It is imperative that the educational community modify its view of the SAT from that presented in the excerpt.
The SAT is a tremendous problem for all of education. There are many horror stories about questions that have no correct answers and the recalcitrance of the Educational Testing Service to review complaints and scores. There are many questions about its validity and even reliability. Research emphatically proves that it has little correlation to success outside of school. Although Kaplan may have struck gold, his leadership has been disastrous for American education. His blindness about the SAT “leveling the field” epitomizes lying to oneself.
Head of School
Ann Arbor, Michigan
I had never read Teacher Magazine, but the cover story “Photo Realism” [October] caught my eye. Wendy Ewald is to be commended for thinking outside the box and getting her vision to work in a public school system.
Jennifer Pricola should edit her writing a bit more carefully. In the review of Squire: Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce [“Of Knights and Dragonflies,” October], she states that Kel, the story’s 15-year-old heroine, “hunts pirates, battles centaurs, builds damns . . . ” As an English teacher, I stress with my students the importance of editing carefully so they avoid such “damn” mistakes.
A little more disturbing than the careless spelling, though, is what seems a careless approach to more important issues of morality and self-control. After quoting Kel’s mother’s advice to the heroine to “get a charm to keep you from pregnancy, until you’re certain you’d like to be a mother. Then, if you do get carried away, you can surrender to your feelings,” Pricola pronounces that this mother’s advice is a “mature approach.” I do not believe 15-year-old girls should be encouraged to abandon self-control and take birth control with the intention of “surrendering to their feelings.” These adolescents have impulses that are ruled by immature minds—minds that need to be encouraged to exercise the genuine maturity of self-control.
Victory Christian School
With all the ramifications of random violence, I was very concerned with the graphics in the October issue that so blatantly promote weapons: the guns in both the lower left-hand corner of the cover and the picture “Charles and the Quilts” in the article “Photo Realism” and the knife in the illustration accompanying the “Bad Girls” story. In the last example, “anger” instead could have been represented by a clenched fist.
Backing the Board
For those of us who have supported National Board candidates through the rigorous process of achieving certification, it is perfectly clear why James Nehring [“Certifiably Strange,” August/September] didn’t certify in the area he felt most confident. For the portfolio entry involving his professional outreach efforts and achievements, he most likely submitted an outstanding résumé. But the National Board is not looking for outstanding résumés; it is looking for teaching professionals who positively impact student achievement. It’s about the value we add to students, not about the list of credits following our names. If Nehring did not make the connection between the books he has authored and how they have impacted his professional community and students, then he hasn’t met the National Board standards.
It is less clear to me why the editors chose to call his experience Kafkaesque and title the page “Certifiably Strange” over an illustration of a man hitting his head against a brick wall. These decisions say a great deal about what Teacher Magazine thinks of the National Board. Fortunately, many thousands of teachers, teacher educators, and school and district personnel disagree. The National Board has raised the standards for our profession, provided a clearly delineated path for continuous professional growth, and put the focus on the student, where it always should have been.
James Nehring sounds like a very accomplished teacher and deserving of whatever awards come his way. National Board certification is not an award, however; it is the most powerful professional development a teacher can undertake. Failure to achieve a perfect score means that one must improve in those areas.
Nehring failed in the area he thought was his strongest. Instead of attacking the National Board’s scoring process, he should have looked deeper into his own teaching practices to see where he could improve. The difference between the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and an awards program is that the National Board doesn’t care how many books you’ve written or how many schools you’ve started. The standards for the entry in which Nehring scored poorly clearly state that the professional collaborations must have an impact on students. In other words, the National Board certifies those who are truly exemplary classroom teachers and who can document their impact on students.
Port Allen, Louisiana
“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” [October] incorrectly referred to “the late Walter Annenberg.” The 93-year-old philanthropist is, in fact, still living.
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. All letters and submissions should include an address and phone number. Mail them to
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A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 2002 edition of Teacher as Letters