Education Opinion


November 01, 2000 4 min read

Whine Connoisseurs

Perhaps it wasn’t your intention, but the teachers you profiled in “Punching Out” [August/ September] came across as serious crybabies. But what bothered me most was what you left out of the story.

You tell us that Edison Elementary was San Francisco’s worst school but nothing else, such as whether Edison parents objected to the longer school day. As I read, I kept saying, Please tell me more about why it is so important for the worst kids to require more schooling. Perhaps in this context, I would have felt better about the teachers you profiled.

Frankly, it’s unavoidable that kids who are furthest behind have to acquire more schooling to just catch up. Heck, if it were my assignment to “fix” Edison Elementary, I’d probably do many of the same things Edison Schools Inc. did—extend the school day and year, work teachers harder, and coordinate the curriculum so that all are on the same page. What other solutions are there?

Joseph Hawkins
Bethesda, Maryland

As a lead teacher for Feaster-Edison School in Chula Vista, California, I must comment on “Punching Out.” I changed careers after owning my own business for 16 years, and I was drawn to Edison Schools because it blends the public and private sectors. Yes, the hours are long at an Edison school, but they were longer in my business. Yes, the curriculum is initially difficult, but it gets easier as one becomes more familiar with it.

I feel free to contribute my own input and veer from the curriculum, with management’s endorsement, as long as I still teach to the Edison standards. But what struck me most was the article’s focus on what the teachers didn’t like about the Edison system instead of whether the Edison system works for the kids. . . . It does.

Dana Messinger
Feaster-Edison Charter
Chula Vista, California

Excused Absences

While I enjoy reading your magazine, I found the article “The Streak” [August/September] annoying. I suppose it is newsworthy and perhaps remarkable that Alphonse Dattalo hasn’t missed a day of class in 28 years. However, you didn’t ask the two questions I would have asked: Do you have children? And who stays home with them when they are sick? Women with children may not have perfect attendance, but as an educator, I sure hope parents (of either gender) are willing to stay home when their kids are sick.

Nancy Palmquist
Jeffersonville, Indiana


In your article “Black Like Us” [May/June], I was surprised to see the word “phase” in the sentence, “But she says it doesn’t phase her.” The word you meant was “faze” (“to disrupt the composure of; to cause someone to feel self-conscious and uneasy; to disconcert; to embarrass; to chagrin; to rattle; to discomfort”). I hope it didn’t faze your English teacher readers.

Rich Siegelman
Vernon School
East Norwich, New York

Fuzzy Math

William Sanders’ plan (“He’s Got Your Number,” May/June ) for teacher evaluation based on a value-added, statistically-based system seems like the ultimate numbers game played by school administrators out to recess. While it is tempting to refine instruments for measuring teacher effectiveness, there are too many variables in the art and science of teaching and the psychology of learning to put much faith in Sanders’ method.

The effectiveness of most classroom teaching is related as much to the implementation of teacher-created curriculum and the interactions of students as to the ability of the instructor to relate ideas, develop thinking strategies, and encourage creativity. There are too many variables in terms of each student’s life to be reflected in patterns detected through students’ individual learning as measured by tests.

If numbers do not lie, but you can lie with numbers, then Sanders’ formula will obscure the complex process of teaching and learning.

Pauline Ucci Dyson
Williamsville, New York

Web Wise

In “Web Warrior” [August/September], a New York school superintendent suggests the state will not mandate instruction about hate group Internet sites. “I don’t think there is more room in our curriculum for more material,” he says.

This comment, however, points to the wrong solution. If educators expect students only to memorize textbooks or use “safe” Internet links or resources, what happens when students leave the protective cocoons of schools? If, on the other hand, educators equip students to analyze and evaluate information acquired from various sources for accuracy, relevance, appropriateness, comprehensiveness, and bias, the students will leave school with the tools to analyze and synthesize information from hate groups or any other groups they encounter. Such teaching shouldn’t push aside other curricula; these are higher-level thinking skills that should pervade the entire curriculum.

Richard Levine
Elgin, Illinois

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