Education Letter to the Editor

Selecting the Subject of Sizer’s Next Book

October 01, 2004 1 min read

To the Editor:

Theodore R. Sizer is surprisingly naive if he believes that K-12 teachers in public schools will break the “third silence” he talks about and become quiet rebels (“Sizer’s Red Pencil Chides Establishment for ‘Silences’” Sept. 8, 2004). How does he suggest they go about doing that? Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the only permissible way to measure instructional effectiveness is through the use of state-developed standardized tests. Teachers who ignore this dictate run the risk of eventually losing their jobs.

Mr. Sizer has the rare luxury of encouraging teachers to stand up to the testing juggernaut and work with students in ways that are not assessed on No Child Left Behind-mandated tests. But even there, he is quixotic. Increasing numbers of school districts are requiring teachers to use daily scripted lesson plans provided by the same testing companies that determine if teachers are doing their job. Under this regimen, virtually every minute of the teaching day is laid out, with little or no room for individual differentiation.

It will take more than being “humble,” which Mr. Sizer defines as being suspicious of any one best curriculum and any one best schedule of time to deliver it. Teachers have to demand changes in a movement that is sucking the intellectual life out of classrooms and turning them into test-preparation factories. How they go about doing that is the rightful subject for his next book.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles, Calif.