Letters To The Editor

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To the Editor:

In her Commentary, "Schools Must Take Initiative With Partners'' (March 16, 1988), Nancy Rabianski-Carriuolo misreads the status of the partnership movement among schools, businesses, and universities.

Far from losing momentum, as she argues, such arrangements are prospering.

Her essay also carries several errors in fact.

Ms. Rabianski-Carriuolo suggests that ProEducation, a magazine about partnerships in education of which I was editor, ceased publication because of "slowing momentum'' in the movement.

But in fact, the parent company of the journal's sponsor was purchased in a leveraged buyout and the new ownership did not want to continue publishing.

And Ms. Rabianski-Carriuolo fails to mention that within three months, publisher Paul Snodgrass and I created Partnerships in Education Journal, a national monthly newsletter on various partnership programs.

The new magazine immediately succeeded in finding corporate sponsors for its first year of publication; it will begin its second year in September 1988.

And planning has started for the Fifth National Symposium on Partnerships in Education. Begun in 1983, this annual event is sponsored by the Presidential Board of Advisors on Private Sector Initiatives. Attendance has grown from 220 people in 1983 to 800 last year.

Current linkages between schools and universities offer further proof that partnerships are thriving.

The 1987 National Directory of School-College Partnerships, published by the American Association for Higher Education, lists more than 1,000 such collaborations.

Ms. Rabianski-Carriuolo also writes that "... among many businesses and colleges involved in partnerships with precollegiate education, a paternalistic attitude toward schools has surfaced.'' A paternalistic approach to such linkages, she indicates, should be viewed as a negative factor.

But paternalism can work positively as well as negatively. Many people now involved with partnerships can remember when businesses and universities took no interest in schools at all.

Any attitude that facilitates the creation of substantive programs with concerned partners should be welcomed.

At the same time, if a business or higher-education partner interprets the partnership literally as an "adoptive'' relationship, the linkage will be short-lived; educators will resent being treated as "children,'' with the partner assuming the "adult'' role.

Schools should place priority on maintaining existing programs that benefit all partners--and emulating such plans as they form new linkages.

Partnerships have indeed evolved into a sophisticated mechanism for meeting the challenges facing our nation's schools.

Don Adams
Partnerships in Education Journal
Largo, Fla.

To the Editor:

I have mixed feelings about the work of the National Coalition of Advocates for Students on the educational difficulties of immigrant children ("Panel: Schools Must Aid Immigrants in 'Struggle to Succeed,''' April 27, 1988).

There is no question that the "New Voices'' report is important and timely, and I was pleased to see that it received front-page coverage in your paper.

However, the coalition's recommendations indicate how much more thought must be given to the topic before we're likely to have much success in meeting the needs of these children.

The first recommendation was that "schools must avoid the time traps generated by lockstep assessment, placement, and instructional procedures.''

But the second recommendation suggested that "assessment should occur within the first few weeks of enrollment.'' The purpose of this assessment would be to ensure that placement is "based on proficiency, not age.''

Yet the report then recommended that "schools should 'detrack' by not grouping students of similar ability together.''

It is difficult to imagine a more contradictory set of conclusions. Cynical school officials could reasonably conclude that the "experts'' have no more idea what to do about the problem than any of the rest of us.

For the sake of the children, I hope the coalition follows up with another report providing more direction for those who work with immigrants each day.

Herbert D. Root
Director of Research
Division of Special Education
District of Columbia Public Schools
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:

For a long time, I've been tinkering with the notion of leaving the teaching profession--not for a lack of either effectiveness or love of helping children learn, but for reasons set forth in David T. Kearns's Commentary ("A Business Perspective on American Schooling,'' April 20, 1988).

As Mr. Kearns suggests, acting on the assumption that teaching is a profession is a dangerous position from which to operate. Many teachers who have dared to exercise their autonomy have fared poorly or been driven from the ranks of teaching to other fields.

Those who have opted to stay have been forced to bootleg effective teaching. The price of daring to act as a responsible, thinking human being is to be labeled uncooperative and arrogant.

Sadly, new ideas are not welcome. The use of research-based decisionmaking ill fits a system dedicated to maintaining the status quo.

Education for many means adjusting to a bureaucracy--first as a student, later as an adult--and preserving that system at all costs.

Mr. Kearns offers hope with his astute analysis of the self-defeating and archaic management structure of schools. Students, faculty members, and ultimately the community stand to benefit from the type of restructuring he outlines.

His views have helped me understand that it is the system that ought to go, not the "canny outlaws.''

Ara L. Nugent
Educational Consultant
Fair Haven, N.J.

To the Editor:

The recent Commentary by Gene I. Maeroff ("The Empowerment of Teachers,'' March 23, 1988) is troubling in several respects.

My first concern is with the author's understanding of "empowerment'' as "a term somewhat synonymous with professionalization.''

Are we to conclude that empowerment is to be viewed as the distribution of business cards, the installation of classroom phones, and the enhancement of "trappings''?

Equally disturbing is the question of whether empowerment is promoted more effectively "from the outside.''

I would suggest that in fact empowerment emerges from an ability to speak in one's own voice about the constraints and possibilities of one's position.

My second concern is with the author's joining of the contradictory images of ladder climbing and collegiality building.

A person does not necessarily escape isolation or achieve panoramic vision by climbing a ladder--often a rather individual project.

Empowerment is related to collegiality. But the building of collegiality involves circles, not ladders, and its potential for empowerment rests on purposeful connection, not simply on the fact that people gather together.

It is at the end of Mr. Maeroff's Commentary, where teachers speak of themselves as "intellectually starved,'' that the discussion of empowerment really should begin.

Mary Katherine Hamilton
Pinole, Calif.

To the Editor:

Your summary of research recently conducted at the Emma Willard School ("Among Girls, 'Ethic of Caring' May Stifle Classroom Competitiveness, Study Shows,'' April 27, 1988) was clear and helpful.

In explaining the "ethic of care'' and the "ethic of justice,'' you showed the strengths of each approach and the importance of teaching and valuing both.

On the other hand, the article's headline and the caption for the photograph depicting a group discussion emphasized only a point at the end of the story.

The words "stifle'' in the headline and "sacrifice'' in the caption stress what's negative about the ethic of caring and put the two modes into competition--hardly the appropriate tone for an article describing efforts to reconcile the modes.

Judith Robbins
The Winsor School
Boston, Mass.

To the Editor:

In a recent article, you indicated that no state requires that nursing services be provided to all children attending public schools ("Calif. Teachers Request End to Medical Duties,'' April 20, 1988).

While I cannot speak for other states, I wish to correct the record with regard to Pennsylvania.

This state's school code stipulates that each of the 501 public-school districts must provide services by a certified school nurse. The maximum caseload for each nurse is not to exceed 1,500 children.

In addition, each system must provide the same level of nursing services in the nonpublic schools operating within the boundaries of the district.

In support of those requirements, Pennsylvania's department of education has established guidelines for the certification of school nurses.

Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree and a license as a registered nurse. And they must have completed an approved university program including supervised clinical experiences in school nursing.

Presently, 11 institutions provide this type of training in Pennsylvania.

Since certified school nurses are a part of the professional staff of the schools, they are also part of the collective-bargaining unit within each district. They are compensated at the same level as teachers and other school employees.

The situation in California, as described in your article, is shocking. Teachers are not trained to be health-care professionals and should never be required to assume those responsibilities.

The best interests of children are not being served when school systems and state departments of education are more concerned with budgets than with the health of the children enrolled in their schools.

Robert J. Wright
Assistant Dean for Education
Widener University
Chester, Pa.

Editor's Note: The article, based on information supplied by the National Association of School Nurses, stated that "only 11 states mandate that districts provide some type of health services.'' Pennsylvania would be in that group.

To the Editor:

The report of the National Assessment of Educational Progress on computer competence points up a serious flaw in most American schools ("'Computer Competence' Still Rare Among Students, Assessment Finds,'' April 13, 1988).

Since most programming is now done by experts and even computer purchases are handled by specialists, the user need possess only the most fundamental skills and knowledge.

The most basic skill for using a computer is keyboarding--the facility once called "touch typing.''

In the 21st century, a high percentage of "good jobs'' will require keyboarding ability. While the special-function keys will probably be much different from those of today's computers, verbal messages will still be input on the 26 traditional keys.

The report indicated that minority students are more likely than whites to lack computer skills. If we want to prepare minority students properly for employment opportunities, we must teach them keyboarding.

The cost of keyboarding instruction is minimal: Computer programs and textbooks are inexpensive, and teachers need only supply time and encouragement.

I would like to see states or districts require that no student could graduate from the 6th grade without minimal keyboarding skills.

Edward Fry
Professor of Education Emeritus
Rutgers University
Laguna Beach, Calif.

Vol. 07, Issue 33

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