Letters To The Editor

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To the Editor:

Your March 16 Federal File reported that I was asked at a Congressional hearing about former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell's book, The Thirteenth Man.

I did answer a few questions about that book. And I did comment that not everyone in Washington who "authors'' a book actually writes it.

But while I disagree with much in Mr. Bell's book, I have no reason to think that he did not write it himself, and I certainly did not intend my remarks to imply otherwise.

William J. Bennett
U.S. Education Department
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:

The controversy over the testing of preschool children in Georgia ("Georgia To Test Kindergartners for Promotion,'' March 2, 1988) could be the springboard toward the most critical change needed in early-childhood education.

From the start of their formal schooling, children should be allowed to progress according to their individual level of maturity.

In Georgia and elsewhere, an ungraded lower-school experience should be created, allowing each child as long or as short a time as he needs to reach the readiness required for formal academics.

Entry-level testing would consist of developmental screening to determine the child's strengths and weaknesses. Periodic retesting would measure maturation.

Achievement testing to determine the child's readiness for the formal academics of a 3rd-grade-level curriculum would come at the end of his lower-school placement.

Werner Rogers, state superintendent in Georgia, is to be complimented for approaching a program that offers individualized education from the start of a child's schooling.

All parties concerned about defining early-childhood education should be challenged to help develop a model supporting ungraded settings in which developmental variation is recognized and valued.

The implementation of such a collaborative model could dramatically reduce special-education costs and meet the needs of all children.

Christine Kallstrom
Mid-Cities Learning Center
Treetops International School
Dallas, Tex.

To the Editor:

Your article "Cashing In on School'' (March 2, 1988) reminds me of efforts in the 1960's, at a New York City elementary school of which I was principal, to help students from unstable homes.

Though never able to gain funding, we wanted to provide employment under school aegis for 11- and 12-year-olds to whom instruction had little significance and who, if education were connected with money jingling in their pockets, might have been more responsive to learning.

The key difference between the project we at Public School 165 envisioned and the projects described in your article was that the youngsters would have had to earn the money by doing extra work and would have benefited from developing the sense of responsibility that goes with employment.

In Little Silver, Louisville, and other communities, children are learning how to start early in a social environment that smiles upon the concept of getting something for nothing: They are receiving early preparation for welfare.

I cannot help but wonder about the effect on their fellow students, who are receiving the message that if you're unwilling enough, you'll be rewarded.

Will borderline students lower their efforts just the little necessary for them, too, to go on the payroll? What about the effect on those who manage to maintain good grade averages in spite of running to a job at a neighborhood supermarket or fast-food restaurant after school each day?

What mixed messages we give our youngsters. As these projects are being implemented, I'm certain the same school systems are telling pupils that they will be retained on grade if they don't achieve and that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Using money as a motivator without demanding extra work for it may have some short-range positive results. The negative consequences, which will last longer, will degrade education.

Joan D. Abrams
Education Consultant
Whither Corporation
Short Hills, N.J.

To the Editor:

I applaud the desire of donors to seek more lasting results from their grants ("Donors Seek Deeper, More Lasting Results From Gifts,'' March 2, 1988).

However, with the exception of a few foundations, most donors address their gifts to school districts rather than to individual schools. Therein lies a fatal flaw.

As you pointed out, numerous obstacles to the more lasting changes that donors seek spring from the top-down structure and bureaucratic rules of most districts. In those that have more than one secondary school, the variation in communities being served and in programs offered is widespread.

I propose that innovative schools be encouraged to develop projects demonstrating how they address major educational issues.

If they are able to demonstrate significant achievement, then the school district must both disseminate and implement the program in other schools facing the same problem.

It is frustrating for a school leader to attempt to gain backing for programs that will serve varied populations of students without the budgetary support to make those programs successful.

It is even more frustrating to seek foundation support and find that foundations do not want to deal with individual schools.

Long-lasting changes beneficial to all can come about if only individual schools develop replicable programs to which districts make an advance commitment.

Bertram L. Linder
Benjamin N. Cardozo High School
Bayside, N.Y.

Vol. 07, Issue 26

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