Letter to the Editor

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Christine Kallstrom Director Treetops School International Dallas, Tex.

The notion of "parents as partners" need not always conjure an image of parents as panicky when confronted with the "responsibility of nurturing a new life" ("Parents as Partners: Helping Families Build a Foundation for Learning," May 9, 1990).

Nor is it necessarily true that "parent-education programs" must be triggered by professionals and policymakers.

In a growing number of locations, caring, intelligent parents, having conceived a child by choice, are knowledgeable about how they want their child to be reared.

Recognizing the significance of the early years and having constant reminders from the media about the shortcomings of traditional approaches, these parents are working with professionals to create their own ''cooperative learning centers."

Depending neither on external funding sources nor welfare, they share the goal of enabling each child to operate in a responsive environment through which his or her development will be most effectively supported.

Having little to do with the current themes of child abuse, mental health, or social services, these parents simply want to be assured that their children will be given a full opportunity:

To refine motor systems through activities that sharpen visual- and auditory-motor connections.

To link these activities with language labels for storage and recall.

To explore movement, sound, colors, and shapes through music, art, and dance.

To observe phenomena of nature and learn to classify and compare living and nonliving things.

To interact with people of all ages and backgrounds in a setting based on mutual respect.

To be introduced to ideas of literature through which their own lives can be defined.

To discover the marketplace and to be encouraged to conserve resources.

To be responsible for the school environment, working side by side with parents and teachers.

As they see their children growing, parents grow also.

Nancy B. Lester Co-Director, The Write Company New York, N.Y.

I am in general agreement with the recommendations of Dennis Sparks and Stephanie Hirsh for school-based education in the future ("Staff-Development Programs for the 1990's," Commentary, May 9, 1990).

I wonder, however, if there isn't a hidden contradiction lurking beneath the surface.

The authors cite cooperative learning and mastery learning as examples of potential areas of study for staff-development programs.

My knowledge of these approaches suggests that both can be characterized as "teacher proof," in that teachers are divested of much of the decisionmaking power that Mr. Sparks and Ms. Hirsch rightly acknowledge as a key element in school-based education.

And neither approach, as far as I can determine, questions the reigning structures, philosophies, or purposes of schooling. But again, such a perspective was cited in the commentary as important.

There's no question that school-based education is the future for reform. If, however, we do not change the content of such programs or, perhaps more important, use them to question the latest quick fixes on the educational market, then we do not practice what we preach.

If our teaching does not reflect our learning--and in the staff-development future painted by Mr. Sparks and Ms. Hirsh, we are learning with intention--then we continue to send mixed messages to students and others in the educational community.

Kathy Malnar Assistant Director State and Federal Programs Adrian Public Schools Adrian, Mich.

Rosalie Pedalino Porter's book, Forked Tongue: The Politics of Bilingual Education, from which you recently published excerpts ("Bilingual Program 'Impedes' Limited-English Children," Books, April 25, 1990), is little more than a political device itself.

Ms. Porter has apparently not had any real opportunity to experience bilingual education in practice, nor has she reviewed the related literature. Both clearly support bilingual education, pedagogically and theoretically.

Such biased and politically influenced works masking themselves as research inflict educational damage on thousands of children.

The imperative for equal educational opportunity is never more keenly felt than when educating children of limited English proficiency. These students continue to inherit the shameful legacy of educational discrimination and inequality.

We cannot at the same time endorse foreign-language instruction for our young people and systematically eliminate the languages of significant portions of our population.

Politics and ethnographic fears must be set aside. Our moral obligation is clear: to provide all students an equal opportunity using the most effective and appropriate methods at our disposal.

Ray Hofmann Baltimore, Md.

According to your article, "Education Officials Reconsider Policies on Grade Retention" (May 16, 1990), a growing number of major-city school systems are ending the practice of retention for students who fail to meet standards in grades K-8.

As a teacher of 27 years' experience and a student who was retained in both the 1st and 4th grade, I find the decision to end retention an act of surrender.

Do these educators really believe that this change will result in fewer students dropping out of school?

If any standards are to be maintained in schools, retention must be maintained. But alternative programs must be provided for students who are held back.

The way things are going in education today, it appears that the guiding principle is: When all else fails, lower your standards!

A.L. Brackbill Director of Curriculum Easton Area School District Easton, Pa.

Congratulations on your article about Saul Cooperman and his performance as New Jersey's Commissioner of Education ("Cooperman Legacy: Gutsy Reforms, Unsolved Problems," May 16, 1990).

As a superintendent in New Jersey for two years, I found his approach to be honest and direct.

He was truly concerned about young people and their education.

Myron Lieberman Washington, D.C.

Your Dimensions box reporting average salaries of teachers ("What Teachers Earn," May 9, 1990) reveals substantial inaccuracies and omissions.

For example, it omits the value of fringe benefits, which exceed one-third of teacher salaries in some states and typically greatly exceed private-sector benefits.

Often, teachers' unions prefer to have funds allocated to benefits instead of the salary schedule precisely because gullible news organizations will then cite the salary figures alone.

Your report does not state whether extra-duty pay is included and does not estimate the rate at which teachers are paid when their work day and work year are considered.

The box also omits the dollar value of certain "non-economic" benefits, such as tenure and re-employment rights.

In a weekly newspaper devoted to education, one might expect a more informed report. Accuracy doesn't require "investigative reporting," just a minimal level of understanding of education.

What ought to be explored are such issues as: Why does the federal government rely on the National Education Association data for salary information, and what is the significance of this reliance for the "information" disseminated by federal agencies--and gullible news media?

Vol. 09, Issue 37

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