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To the Editor:

I read with great interest your story "Design Contracts for New Schools Snag Over Rights'' (Oct. 28, 1992). I have had a successful career with technology-based companies, both large and entrepreneurial. I was also involved with one of the non-winning New American Schools Development Corporation teams.

Education is unique among the amenities of our society. It has the weakest research base, the lowest productivity, smallest investment ratios in employee training, minimal adoption of technology-based delivery systems, and the smallest commercial support industry. If I were designing a system to stymie innovation, it would be difficult to improve on education.

Our federal government supports $6 billion of research for health and human-service research, versus $130 million for education. Johnson and Johnson's $11 billion in medical revenues swamps the $200 million of the Jostens Learning Corporation. Recent studies--"Research and the Renewal of Education'' by the National Academy of Education and "Research and Education Reform'' by the National Academy of Sciences--attest to this appalling condition.

Last fall, I attempted to convince the NASDC management to follow a new path taken by the U.S. departments of Defense and Energy, and by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This path is to promote economic development by providing companies with the commercial rights to their government-sponsored research. Technology transfer of research into commercial firms is many more times effective than putting it into the public domain.

If educators and students are to benefit from new low-cost, effective solutions that are delivered with quality, training, and enhancements, then the commercial routes are the only channel.

NASDC has an opportunity to play a major role in transforming the engine that drives innovation in education. It needs to start by doing everything within its power to tranfer technology and methods created by the NASDC research to the commercial champions who will deliver it to the schools. We do not need another 11 reports sitting unused in ERIC.

Theodore C. Kraver
Learning/Research/Enterprise Inc.
Phoenix, Ariz.

To the Editor:

I was disturbed in reading your recent interview on Total Quality Management ("Researcher Discusses Shortcomings of 'Total Quality Movement,' '' Focus On, Oct. 21, 1992), that the research being discussed was not cited more specifically.

We in Idaho are just coming to know of W. Edwards Deming's concepts in management and are trying to figure it into the scheme of education, teaching, and reform. I for one am extremely interested in the process and am learning more each day of the positive effects Total Quality Management practices can have.

Clearly, Mr. Deming's process does not call for turning control of the company--in this case the school--over to employees. But it does call for input into management decisions from all employees and customers--in this case teachers, parents, and students. This idea of empowering those involved to give voice to concerns, innovative ideas, and suggestions simply makes good sense.

For several years, administrators, teachers, parents, and patrons of schools have been bombarded with ideas for reform and restructuring. Workshops abound. Jargon is rampant. Nothing changes but the dialogue. With Total Quality Management practices comes the opportunity for real change for the better.

Certainly, there are questions to be answered and clarifications to be made as to the implementation of the Deming program. I hope you will publish some success stories and possibly more information on where one might receive further training in T.Q.M. as it relates to schools.

Michael B. Sessions
Central Elementary School
Sugar City, Idaho

Editor's Note: Education Week looked in depth at T.Q.M. in the schools in the March 11 and March 18, 1992, issues.

To the Editor:

The article "One Parent's Odyssey'' (Commentary, Oct. 7, 1992) is a handbook of How Not To Do It for those who want to improve the schools. Following impeccable bureaucratic processes is precisely the reverse of what needs to be done. School administration should be skilled in resisting external interests, however well intended and well thought out.

What is needed is an illustration, an example, a mini-school that illustrates to the administration what might be better. Rather than reason with the administration, show them what life for students might be. Construct a program, let's say, called Every Student Is Gifted. Have a week's program, a mini-school, in the summer staffed and run by parents. Use the school facility, and demonstrate how it might be, however amateur.

The administration and the teachers might see how they could use that idea, even if only a small part of it.

Henry Bissex
Montpelier, Vt.

To the Editor:

I was impressed with the significant arguments presented on both sides of the voucher question in your article "New Approaches Blurring the Line Between Public and Private Schools'' (Oct. 7, 1992).

There is a great need for improving public education as well as private education in America today. A voucher system may provide an incentive for restructuring education in a way that creates an active learning environment for all students through choice.

Parents have the right to choose a school that best suits the needs of their children. A voucher system empowers them to do that.

Choice fosters healthy competition and accountability in both the private and public sectors. It challenges educators to examine every aspect of the school environment. Such examination raises the level of awareness, which leads to critical evaluation, which leads to positive changes.

Christopher Whittle's idea to "create schools so powerful and innovative that they will have a real influence on the structure of public education'' through the Edison Project is commendable. To start from "the ground up'' to make fundamental changes is a good approach for restructuring the school system, if there is money to do so.

I disagree with the statement that "vouchers are an incentive to abandon the public schools.'' A voucher system merely provides a choice to parents. That choice may be a private or a public school.

From an educator's point of view, a voucher system may serve as an incentive for improvement of public education, compelling restructuring, where it is needed, to produce a better educational environment. Public schools have a very important place in American society. Their position and influence may be enhanced through a voucher system.

Sister M. Lynn Lester, B.V.M.
San Francisco, Calif.

Vol. 12, Issue 11

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