Education Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

June 21, 1989 5 min read

Gerald W. Bracey Director of Research and Evaluation Cherry Creek Schools Englewood, Colo.

If we consider my Commentary a type of reading-comprehension test, then Paul L. Williams flunks, having, in his response, missed the basic point (“Balance Among Skills ‘Key’ to Instruction,” Commentary, May 31, 1989).

Nowhere in my essay did I posit an antagonism between “basic” and ''higher order” skills.

I pointed out that we have no criteria for establishing a hierarchy among any skills so labeled, and denied that those skills tested by existing norm-referenced, standardized tests had any claim to being “basic.”

Others, such as Archie Lapointe, executive director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, saw that this was so.

After reading the essay, Mr. Lapointe wrote me that he had seen children learn calculus before they learned how to add.

If this is the case, then who can claim addition is “basic”? By what criteria?

Yet Mr. Williams sails along talking “basic” and “essential” skills as if he knew--which he clearly does not.

As for my allegations concerning the knowledge base of testing professionals and the amount of time they log in schools, surely Mr. Williams knows that what I said is true--unless he’s counting the time the sales reps are in schools hawking tests.

How many testing professionals are as comfortable with equilibration and situated cognition as they are with standard errors of measurement? Few.

How many have the interest or energy to major in psychometrics and cognitive or developmental psychology? Precious few.

How many read both the Journal of Educational Measurement and Child Development? Fewer still.

Without such knowledge of cognition and development, testmakers will continue to infuse their tests with naive, unthinking behaviorism, as I alleged.

The same behaviorism, unfortunately, pervades Mr. Williams’s essay.

Carl F. Knowlton Rockport, Mass.

I am in utter disbelief that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit could reach such a decision regarding the “zero reject” philosophy for education of the handicapped (“All Handicapped Must Be Served, Court Concludes,” June 7, 1989).

The testimony of the developmental pediatrician was clear that due to the virtual absence of a cortex, Timothy could not benefit from education.

Unless there was countering testimony, the decision makes no sense.

One has to conclude that the district’s lawyer, Gerald K. Zelin, is correct: Rochester is wasting money on Timothy that could better serve other students or perhaps lower the cost of education for the city’s taxpayers.

It is apparent that Timothy needs medical care. How can this be interpreted as an educational problem?

It would be interesting to view the briefs filed by four U.S. Senators to determine their rationale for supporting such a stance.

It is legislative and judicial abuse to force communities to provide educational services when it is known that such services cannot be received.

It should be made abundantly clear to taxpayers that this decision is increasing their taxes for medical, not educational, reasons. Schools should not be the scapegoat for this questionable decision.

If our laws, courts, and legislators can in such a manner make a mockery of common sense, we have a real problem.

Anne Motsinger Lake Geneva, Wis.

I am writing in response to your article “Texas Senate Approves Bill To Halt Testing of 1st Graders” (April 19, 1989).

As a future educator, I am relieved to hear that someone shares my skepticism of the formal testing system.

I cannot imagine conducting a test when 1st graders are struggling to get adjusted to school.

Why does the school system insist on pushing children to produce when it should be concerned about allowing students to recognize themselves as individuals?

Every student learns at different levels, but the standardized tests do not allow for individualism.

To have one test where students regurgitate information is absurd.

How can anyone call this education? In this system, we are not producing individual human beings but carbon copies.

I say eliminate testing altogether and focus on evaluating these students on their own levels.

I congratulate the Texas Senate in taking a long-needed step in re-evaluating the testing system.

Tom Jenkens Pittsburgh, Pa.

You should have talked to some Pennsylvania taxpayers for your article “Tax-Reform Postmortem: Plans Killed in 2 Elections” (May 24, 1989).

You interviewed almost everyone who wanted the issue passed by the voters.

If you had reported more carefully, you would have found that if the tax-reform issue had passed, it would have been like handing the state legislature a loaded gun to do with as it pleased.

The simple fact is that the taxpayers do not trust politicians.

You say that tax reform would have eliminated “nuisance” taxes. O.K., add this: A $10 occupational assessment + $25 per capita = $35. Where you got a residence tax is beyond me.

Tax reform would cost the average payer about $175 more. You forgot to say that. Thanks, but I’ll keep the “nuisance.”

You also forgot to mention that counties could enact their own sales taxes, that savings accounts could be taxed, that churches could be taxed--and the list goes on.

I would like to know how state education groups determined that the current system “leaves the burden of school funding on homeowners who are retired or on fixed incomes. ...”

You were right that the state teachers’ union was pushing this reform to pass.

They saw it as a way of hiking their salaries to the sky. Since almost everyone’s tax would be raised, they wanted a big chunk of the pie.

You also forgot to mention that property taxes would be reduced for four years but that after that time they could be raised.

In the future, I hope that you would have more objective reporting and let all sides tell their story.

Norman A. Bleshman Boynton Beach, Fla.

You recently reported on a recommendation of the National Assessment of Vocational Education that one-fifth of federal aid for vocational education go toward establishing tougher state standards for programs (“Vocational-Ed. Assessment To Call for State Reform Plans,” May 24, 1989).

However, providing funds to any state without requiring accountability for enforcement of standards may prove pointless.

The nave recommendations are commendable except that no provisions are made for the vocational education of exceptional students, funding for whom seems to be disappearing from federal legislation.

In many states, planners of career training say that programs for the disabled are assumed to be needed, but are not the subject of stated requirements.

Without such a statement, vocational education for the disabled can be forgotten.

And too much money goes to creating great pilot programs without mandating their implementation.

As a result, many good experiments lay dormant.

Isn’t broader implementation the purpose of a successful pilot program?

If we can fund a pilot, why are there no funds to take the program through the next step?

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 1989 edition of Education Week as Letters to the Editor