To the Editor:
After reading your article “Tough Task of School Improvement Begins” (June 16, 2010), I wondered whether the school turnaround in Kentucky you write about could be replicated in other schools around the country. I had two concerns.
The first had to do with what is going on in the classroom. According to the article, teachers at Louisville’s Shawnee High School “risk their careers” if student achievement does not rise at a rapid pace. If I were a teacher there, and I knew that my job was on the line, I would teach to the test. In fact, I might even go one notch lower and do drill work.
The problem with teaching to the test, of course, is that it is boring and does not engage students. Plus, it takes time away from more interesting material. America would be a better place, I believe, if schools kindled the curiosity of young people instead of prepping them to pass a standardized exam.
I hope that in a follow-up article, you may talk more about the teaching methods and curriculum used at Shawnee High School. We need a more comprehensive discussion about where teaching priorities should lie.
My second concern has to do with the validity of this turnaround model. Apparently, Shawnee High has the best principal in the area, and he has hired some of the best teachers to work with him. This will not always be the case in low-performing schools. And a question left unanswered is whether Shawnee High is receiving any resources or monies from foundations sympathetic to this turnaround model’s success. If so, we should know about it.
Forest Hills, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2010 edition of Education Week as Ky. ‘Turnaround’ Story Raises Two Concerns