Education Letter to the Editor

With Scripted Lessons, Are Teachers an Anachronism?

July 31, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

If scripted lesson plans produce the results their supporters claim, then no need exists to hire teachers in the first place (“Goodbye, Mr. & Ms. Chips,” Commentary, July 18, 2007). School boards could simply employ any adult who is capable of following directions, at a fraction of the cost of a teacher’s salary. After all, if all that ultimately matters is what can be easily counted on a standardized test, then teachers are an anachronism.

This notion is not as hyperbolic as it may initially seem. In “Read It and Weep,” the cover story in The Weekly Standard of July 16, 2007, Charlotte Allen praises the Reading First program for its proven ability to help disadvantaged children. She focuses on the “miracle” at Ginter Park Elementary School in Richmond, Va. Despite the school’s high-poverty-level student body and dreary location, it now ranks in the top third of more than 1,100 public elementary schools in the entire state, holding its own against schools in the posh, cerebral suburban counties of northern Virginia.

The secret, according to the article, is strict adherence to Reading First. Allowing teachers to teach reading as they believed was appropriate for their students prior to adoption of the program resulted in what the author calls “hobby teaching.” This meant that teachers would sometimes spend the entire school year on projects that appealed to their individual interests, to the virtual exclusion of reading. By implication, only scripted lessons will produce stipulated outcomes.

But as Nancy Ginsburg Gill astutely points out in your pages, denying teachers the freedom to exercise their professional judgment will eventually backfire. It’s a sure bet that there will be no more teachers like Frank McCourt, Pat Conroy, and Jonathan Kozol.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles, Calif.

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