Letters to the Editor

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The former College Board president George Hanford's Commentary on the media's misinterpretation of Scholastic Aptitude Test scores ("The Misinterpretation of the S.A.T." Commentary, Dec. 4, 1991) would be admirable if it weren't so misleading. The fact is that the major source of the "short-sided treatment of the press and spurious speculation by educators" lamented by Mr. Hanford is the College Board itself.

How, for example, are reporters meant to react to the College Board press-release headline that the College Board "warns of an 'underclass' of ill-prepared students"? The College Board's own statements are alarmist, warning in response to an 8-point decrease over four years in verbal scores, that "a free fall in verbal scores is taking place ". They neglect to say that verbal scores have fluctuated within a 10 point range for the last 15 years.

Similarly, the College Board's press release, in reaction to this year's scores, incites the public that "we must take drastic measures if we are to meet the educational goals set by President Bush and the nation's governors." Such language is hardly designed to promote calm, measured analysis of long-term score changes.

Mr. Hanford calls for the media and public to "put the one-year decline in proper perspective .... "Yet the College Board's press materials, including a state-by-state chart of S.A.T. score averages, seem primarily designed to promote the S.A.T.'S Use as an annual indicator of student achievement. It is not. In fact, this is a misuse which the College Board has, at other times, repudiated.

A perusal of my organization's files reveals that most of the stories reporting on this year's annual S.A.T. score averages were written directly from the College Board's own press release. If there is irresponsibility in the reporting of the annual S.A.T.-score release, there's only the College Board to blame.

Sarah Stockwell
University Tests Coordinator
National Center for Fair &
Open Testing (FairTest)
Cambridge, Mass.

To the Editor:

It was interesting, shocking, and disheartening to read your short article about the Lake Forest, 111., elementary principal who was found guilty of encouraging teachers to cheat on standardized tests (Across the Nation, Jan. 8, 1992).

It is a sad state when professional educators feel the need to have to cheat on tests that enlightened districts nationwide are debating the usefulness of---while encouraging their teachers to develop more authentic alternatives to measuring student growth.

More importantly, however, was the statement that the district beard was considering whether to "demote" the principal in question to a teaching job. Why do they consider an offer of continued employment as a classroom teacher in their system a demotion? If such a turn of events happened to me, I would be honored to receive that kind of demotion.

Sounds to me as if the Lake Forest, Ill., board of education, in addition to becoming more knowledgeable about current trends in standardized testing, needs to evaluate how they honor their teachers.

Jim Curtiss
Assistant Principal
Hopkins Elementary School
Lilburn, Ga.

To the Editor:

I trust a now red-faced David L. Pagni made a mere slip in mental estimating when he stated that 6,859 and 7,839 would be rounded off to 6,000 and 7,000 respectively ("Speaking Out for Calculators," Commentary, Jan. 15, 1992).

He suggested in his Commentary that despite calculators we still need to be able to estimate, to use our understanding of place value and our ability to multiply by powers of 10, certainly points well taken.

I would submit, however, that the product 42,000,000 is rather different from 56,000,000--the result most of us would derive from similar mental calculations.

If no mistake was made, it would seem imperative that manufacturers hasten to add a "rounding off' function to what we now must realize is an essential and indispensable tool, the calculator. Perhaps inadvertently, Mr. Pagni has indeed "spoken out for calculators."

Carroll Heideman
WASCD Publications
Madison, Wis.

To the Editor:

David Pagni argues the case for using calculators, while adding that "we still want" students to be able to estimate mentally the answer to such problems as 7,839 x 6,859.

The answer, Professor Pagni writes, "should be about 6,000 x 7,000 or 42,000,000." I'd rather students know it should be about 7,000 x 8,000, or 56,000,000, which is much closer to the actual value, as anyone can speedily verify with a calculator!

Richard H. de Lone
Senior Consultant
Committee to Support Philadelphia
Public Schools
Philadelphia, Pa.

Vol. 11, Issue 19, Page 32

Published in Print: January 29, 1992, as Letters to the Editor
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