Letters to the Editor

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To the Editor:

In your May 15, 1991, story, "Nsta Begins Effort To Create Science Standards," you state that these proposed standards by the science-teachers group will have to reach textbook publishers frequently criticized for "producing inferior products."

At some point, such textbook bashing becomes an overused symbol of what's wrong with education. As a whipping boy, the publishing industry is perfect for those who would replace today's school reality with their version of the future: It's "low-tech," and its development is controlled by a relatively small number of people, most of whom are not a part of the reform in-crowd.

In fact, as the article also states, "mainline" publishers' products do an uncanny job of mirroring what teachers want at any given time within a timeframe that is determined to some extent by state textbook-adoption cycles. The content and associated pedagogy in those books come straight from practicing classroom teachers and the authors who claim to be in touch with them.

Perhaps the resulting "inferior product" reflects more on the "inferior reality" that is current classroom practice and socio-political fact than on the publishers who so efficiently capture it on textbook pages and in associated teacher-support materials.

Education reformers and textbook critics would better deflect charges of self-interest and change-for-the-sake-of-change if they'd abandon the disingenuous ploy of confusing the tools of education with its methods.

Alan Hull
Marietta, Ga.

To the Editor:

I have several comments to make on your May 15, 1991, article, "Study Examines Services in Separate Facilities for Disabled," specifically on its statement that "disabilities of students served in separate residential facilities are no more severe than those of students in separate--but less restrictive--day programs ..."

While the statement may be true for disability groups taken overall, it is not true for specific groups, especially for deaf children in special education. Our center's 1990 Annual Survey of Hearing Impaired Children and Youth, a national project going back to 1968, reveals that 90 percent of the students in separate residential schools for deaf students are in the "severe to profound" hearing-loss range, compared with 81 percent of the students in separate day-school programs. (Only 47 percent of hearing-impaired children in local schools enrolling hearing students are in the severe/profound range.)

This is not a large difference, perhaps, but one that leads into my second, and I believe more important, point: Your article raises a serious question about general studies of disabled children and their educational programs, without regard for individual disability groups. In the sentence from your article quoted above, the loaded word is "restrictive." Whatever that word means in the legislation on special education, it has certainly taken on a negative connotation in the literature. "Restrictive" is bad; "less restrictive" is good.

But a deaf child may be much more "restricted" and isolated in a local public school than in a separate residential school with the social and emotional support of other deaf children. (Almost 1,000 schools reported to the 1990 Annual Survey that they had only one deaf student.)

There is no theoretical "best" placement for deaf children. If we really believe that the needs of individual children should be the primary basis for placement, then program evaluations should focus on the problems schools face in meeting these needs and not on some theo4retical, preconceived notion of what is good for these children.

As an original reviewer of several drafts of the study reported in your article, I can only repeat what I said in one of my reviews: "Separate facilities and local mainstream programs have both strengths and weaknesses. ... The dogma-drive preference for one setting over another [e.g., the least-restrictive environment] should be replaced by an evaluation of individual program settings in relation to the needs of individual students."

The study cited in your article, by the way, recognized the hazards of over-generalization, and my review of that study was generally favorable.

Arthur N. Schildroth
Senior Research Associate
Center for Assessment and Demographic Studies
Gallaudet University
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:

In the May 22, 1991, "Federal File," I noted that Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander may finally bring about the demise of the U.S. Education Department's wall chart. Since the inception of this device, college-admission-test scores have been used in a manner for which they were never intended, that of comparing the educational records of schools, school districts, and states. What makes this practice even more questionable is the fact that, in some states, fewer than half of the students take these tests.

If we are going to measure the quality of the educational experience, let's include all the learners.

Frank Burtnett
Executive Director
National Association of College Admission Counselors
Alexandria, Va.

To the Editor:

The polemic from the director of Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism claiming that un4ions and not the recession are to blame for the fiscal crunch is a load of hogwash ("Unions, Not Just Recession, To Blame for Fiscal Crunch," Letters, May 15, 1991).

If we want reform but at the expense of holding our teachers as second-class citizens who cannot share the American dream then I say that polemics has taken the place of rational discourse.

Once again we have to look at what the priorites of our nation really are and see whether we are willing to put necessary support behind our ideals. Bashing those who seek to assure teachers rewards commensurate with their impact on our society adds nothing positive to the debate.

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

Vol. 10, Issue 36

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