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Grading 'Quality Counts': Criticism and Praise

To the Editor:

Regarding your overview of the educational system in Quality Counts: A Report Card on the Condition of Public Education in the 50 States, your premise that teaching may be only as good as the teachers seems a bit too truistic to fit the problems your research unfolds. (See Quality Counts Education Week Special Supplement, Jan. 22, 1997.)

Ask, rather, this question: How may even good teachers teach well when their primary tasks are paperwork and keeping the peace? Do you not miss the point when you fail to examine the overloaded ranks of administrators? In this research, are you not following the list of questions that an administrator would ask? Can it possibly be that national public education is failing, while the administrative mentality is working well?

I submit that as with General Motors, the problem with all education (higher and lower) begins at the administrative level. How might your report reflect as much, if indeed this were the case? Certainly, it goes at the administrative problem only obliquely. It therefore strikes me as administrative whitewash.

Richard McBride
Dallas, Texas.

To the Editor:

Your report card on California says that the sad state of the schools here results from the passage more than a decade ago of Proposition 13 and the resultant lack of funding it produced. I see it differently.

If it were not for immigration and births to immigrants since 1970, our school population would have declined. Instead, California has accounted for half of the nation's school growth while being only 12 percent of the nation's population.

Since 1989, our public school enrollment has increased by 850,000 and we have spent an additional $7 billion on schools. During this period, over two-thirds of the 850,000 added students are limited-English-proficient. Is it any wonder our per-pupil funding is so low? Is it any wonder that our children do not do well in reading and math?

While Proposition 13 certainly does make it more difficult to raise funding for schools, we would not have a problem without so many added students. I, therefore, believe that we do not have a funding shortage but rather an immigrant surfeit.

How can our children do well in school if the new students keep coming and coming and coming? Education Week may say that we should spend billions more to keep up, but why are we responsible for funding half of the nation's enrollment increase? Why are our children, many of them children of immigrants, doomed to this unending overcrowding of our classrooms?

Linda Thom
Santa Barbara, Calif.

To the Editor:

How right you are. My wife is an art teacher, and her classes have 35 to 40 students in most cases. When she has the rare opportunity to teach a class with only 20 to 25 students, all she can talk about is how much more the kids learn. Ask almost any teacher whether she would rather have a $5,000-a-year raise or only 20 kids in every class, and the class size would be the choice.

Rick Stauts
Tallahassee, Fla.

To the Editor:

Once again, the assessment of how well states are doing in reforming education and improving student achievement has neglected to include the arts (or foreign language or technology/workplace skills).

It would have been very simple for your report to include all nine areas of Goal 3 from the Goals 2000 document and take data relating to the arts from the recently published document by the National Arts Education Association, "Status of Arts Assessment in the States." The first step to reform is looking at what counts as core curriculum.

Lorena Nalin
Arizona Art Education Association
Tucson, Ariz.

To the Editor:

With all scores below 50 percent proficiency, I'd say America's schools--teachers and administrators--have failed across the board, in every state. Parents and taxpayers can no longer afford to let the system continue to produce subpar performance. (I say this as the former associate publisher of Scholastic Inc.'s America's Agenda and a current employee of McGraw-Hill.)

Charles Cole
New York, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Your assessment of Maryland failed to mention the fact that we are the first and only state to have a service-learning requirement for all high school graduates.

Robert O. Black
Baltimore, Md.

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