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Education Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

June 06, 1984 7 min read

Artie Kearney Appleton, Wis.

Having read much of the testimony from the hearings on the proposed regulations for the Protection of Pupil Rights Act, and having talked with people who observed the hearings, I feel that much was left out of your article (“Parents Seek Prompt Action on E.D. Privacy Regulation,” Education Week, April 4, 1984). However, I have quite different concerns than Charlotte Iserbyt, who wrote a letter to the editor on the hearings in your April 25 issue.

Your article failed to mention that people arrived at the hearings in buses that had carefully been arranged by the organizers of the hearings. It is no wonder that the hearings drew so many witnesses--as was mentioned by Ms. Iserbyt.

Also, many of the testimonies given were very similar; it was almost as if a script had been prepared ahead of time.

Your article did not mention that some people carried a crucifix into the hearings and some stated or ended their testimony by declaring that they were born-again Christians.

Another interesting point about the hearings is that a group or individual who was not a part of the pre-selected group testifying at the hearing had little hope of being able to state opposing views. They were told, within a few days after the formal announcement of the hearings had been made, that all time slots for making formal testimony had been filled.

As one reviews the testimony of witnesses, it becomes very clear that if their values, thoughts, and actions were being taught in the schools, there would be little, if any, need for the Hatch Amendment. I encourage everyone to contact Monika Harrison, special advisor to the undersecretary for management, at the U.S. Education Department, room 3181, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202, for copies of the transcripts from all or at least one of the regional hearings. Decide for yourself if you want these people to determine what should be taught in schools. If you are unable to obtain the transcripts through Ms. Harrison, notify your Congressman.

I wonder how Ms. Iserbyt, who has not worked in the Education Department for some time, knew so much about these hearings. Could it be that she helped organize them?

Paul Berg Computer Education Specialist Department of Education Juneau, Alaska

The information supplied to you by Market Data Retrieval concerning the number of computers in Alaskan schools is totally inaccurate (“Number of Computers Doubles,” Education Week, April 18, 1984).

Eductional technology is intensively utilized in Alaska to help us overcome the obstacles of distance, climate, and isolation. Educational computing should not be a numbers contest, but the numbers do indicate the extent to which a state has invested in the technology. We are especially concerned because this is the second year that Market Data Retrieval has published inaccurate data about Alaskan schools.

Thirteen months ago, we did a survey of our districts and found that there were 1,704 microcomputers in the schools and a computer-to-student ratio of 1 to 55. Our annual survey for 1983-84 is not yet complete; however, we estimate, based on Alaskan vendor sales, that the number of computers in our schools has increased by about 1,000 during the current school year, giving us a computer-to-student ratio of 1 to 35. We are currently unaware of any public school without microcomputer technology.

Education Week is in a class by itself as a respected source of information for educators. We sincerely hope that you do not jeopardize your credibility by publishing inaccurate statistical information about education.

Editor’s Note: Market Data Retrieval officials say they have received no other complaints about their survey, but they acknowledge that they have had difficulty obtaining data from individual schools in Alaska and say they will work with Mr. Berg to gather more accurate information in future surveys. Unfortunately, it is not possible to verify the statistical information gathered by the many organizations that survey aspects of American education. But we regret inadvertently passing along erroneous data and appreciate the writer’s effort to set the record straight.

Sanford W. Reitman Professor of Educational Foundations and Former Chairman, Department of Teacher Education School of Education and Human Development California State University at Fresno Fresno, Calif.

Roland S. Barth is correct in his commentary, “Sandboxes and Honeybees” (Education Week, May 9, 1984): Schools, including universities, suffer from a lack of professional collegiality. But how is this deplorable situation to be reversed?

Certainly not by waiting for the faculty to “naturally” come together as an organic community. No, the answer lies in leadership--real leadership by those authorized to exert it, such as administrators, department chairmen, and so forth.

Unfortunately, few of those authorized to lead in the development of professional collegiality are so inclined. Most have the “siege mentality” that Mr. Barth discusses. Because they fear the unpredictable repercussions of genuine academic democracy, rather than encourage collegiality, they try to stifle it whenever it shows signs of emerging as a significant force in their organizations.

This is regrettable because the few educational leaders who are willing to risk building cooperative environments are amply rewarded by substantial increases in overall faculty morale and greatly improved teaching-learning climates.

It is indeed tragic that so little interest has been shown by educational researchers in comparing collegial and anomic academic environments and the characteristics of their authorized managers.

David C. Smith President, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Dean, College of Education University of Florida Gainesville, Fla.

I read “Lack of Pedagogy Courses Said Not To Affect Teachers’ Performance” (Education Week, May 9, 1984) with considerable interest and disappointment.

I am disappointed because the article’s conclusions differ significantly from my own after analyzing the report in question by the Southern Regional Education Board (sreb).

Several examples (emphasis mine):

The report states that analysis of pertinent literature reveals that ''first-year teachers who had completed sequences in education courses were rated significantly higher than those who had not,” and that “student achievement gains were significantly related to hours of education courses that had been completed by teachers” (pages 6-7).

The report reviews the Georgia study and states, “In science and mathematics, teacher-education graduates outscored the arts and science teachers at both levels (bachelor’s and master’s)” (page 19) and, “Teacher-education graduates possessing a master’s degree outscore all other groups for this population” (page 21).

In reference to the Louisiana data, the author concludes, “It is interesting, however, to note that for the more specialized information that is measured on the elementary-education-area exam, the teacher who had not completed a teacher-education program (an average of 13 hours of education courses) did not score as high as those who had” (page 27).

Reviewing the performance of teachers in a metropolitan school district in Georgia, the report stated: “The teachers with regular certificates had higher performance ratings than the provisionally certified ones; however, the former were considerably more experienced than the latter group” (page 32).

In discussing the four related studies, the author observed: “At the bachelor’s level, the arts and sciences graduates in general scored slightly higher as a group, but at the master’s level teacher-education graduates in elementary education outscored those who were provisionally or temporarily certified on the Area Examinations in Louisiana,” and “The data from the Georgia metropolitan district do indicate that teachers who are regularly certified receive a better rating than the provisionally certified arts and science graduates when rated on the district instrument” (pages 44-45).

If the purpose of the article was to provide your readership with a sense of the contents of the sreb study, it fell well short of the mark. Even the headline of the article leaves the reader who did not read the original study with a badly distorted view.

Editor’s Note: We asked Lynn M. Cornett, the sreb researcher who conducted the study, to react to the Education Week story and Mr. Smith’s letter. Her reply follows. A copy of her report, “A Comparison of Teacher Certification Test Scores and Performance Evaluations for Graduates in Teacher Education and in Arts and Sciences in Three Southern States,” can be obtained from sreb, 1340 Spring St., N.W., Atlanta, Ga. 30309.

Lynn Cornett Research Associate

Southern Regional Education Board Atlanta, Ga.

Your story on the sreb research comparing arts and sciences graduates and teacher-education majors reflects the general conclusions of the studies. However, as often happens when a lengthy report is summarized, details and explanations must be omitted. General conclusions are derived from analysis and interpretation of all of the data. The headline is misleading in that one of the important conclusions of the report (as noted in the story) is to question the usefulness of presently used evaluation methods in determining differences in the classroom performance of teachers.

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 1984 edition of Education Week as Letters to the Editor