November/December 1995

Teacher, Vol. 07, Issue 03
Education AFT's Shanker Angers Big-City Districts
The American Federation of Teachers' ambitious new campaign for safe, orderly schools and high academic standards has tapped the ire of an organization representing the nation's big-city school districts.
November 1, 1995
2 min read
Education Gay Official Ousted
Voters in Des Moines, Iowa, turned out in record numbers in September to defeat an openly gay school board veteran and elect two candidates backed by local and statewide conservative groups.
November 1, 1995
1 min read
Education Full Circle
Harvard psychiatrist Robert Coles first saw Ruby Bridges Hall 35 years ago as she braved a rowdy mob to integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, depicted in the Norman Rockwell painting above. Studying her thoughts and bravery helped Coles come to understand and write about the inner lives of children. After both received honorary degrees from Connecticut College this past summer, Hall returned home to begin her new job as director of student and family services at Frantz Elementary.
November 1, 1995
1 min read
Education Hat In The Ring
Tired of looking out on a sea of bored faces in his civics class, Wayne Kolb decided to make the political process come alive for his students. He announced his candidacy for president of the United States.
November 1, 1995
1 min read
Education A Long Way To Go
Each Monday morning, a 12-year-old blind boy living in Mahopac, N.Y., is driven to White Plains to catch a flight to Rochester. From there, he is driven to Batavia, home to the 76-student New York State School for the Blind. Come Friday, the boy returns the same way he came. For years, his hometown school district has picked up a large share of the tab--about $98,000 this year--but officials there are tired of doing so and have made no secret about it.
November 1, 1995
2 min read
Education The Price of Admission
Alfredo Grajalez lives in South Central Los Angeles, in a green and white wood bungalow that is weathered on the outside but neat and tidy on the inside. The house is small--so small, in fact, that Alfredo, who is 15 years old, doesn't even have his own bedroom; he sleeps on a foldout couch in the living room. Alfredo has gotten used to it, though; when you've got five brothers, privacy is hard to come by.
David Hill, November 1, 1995
24 min read
Education Get Technical
By the turn of the century, experts predict that every science teacher in the country will have students in his or her classroom who are not native English speakers.
November 1, 1995
7 min read
Education Books
TINKERING TOWARD UTOPIA: A Century of Public School Reform, by David Tyack and Larry Cuban. (Harvard University Press, $22.50.) Americans increasingly like to talk of public education in terms of the best of times and the worst of times, the best usually associated with the "solid'' 1940s and '50s from which we have ever since been slouching toward disaster. But these so-called "good'' decades, as Stanford scholars Tyack and Cuban point out, were, in fact, characterized by ironclad segregation, the earnest implementation of academic tracking, and the development of comprehensive high schools that critics now assail for their impersonality. It's not that Tyack and Cuban want to suggest that our schools are now better than ever; it's rather that they want to call into question the whole notion of educational progress or regress that they claim is "in the eye of the beholder.'' At various times in our history, proponents of teacher-centered and student-centered pedagogies have taken turns calling each other permissive and authoritarian, each seeing the other as impediments to progress. This is one reason why schools "tinker'' with reforms; to accept or reject them wholesale would mean surrendering the middle ground upon which most educators feel safe. What's fresh about Tyack and Cuban's argument is that they see such tinkering not as mere overcautiousness but as "one way of preserving what is valuable and reworking what is not.'' Attempting to do something radically new without carefully considering all of the implications leads to quick disillusionment and rejection, as happened in the 1960s when teachers discovered that a single untamed child could wreak havoc in their "open'' classrooms. In short, teachers will simply not absorb changes that come too fast and furious, be they the "new'' math of 30 years ago or the computer-based instruction of today. And it is to the credit of the authors that they see such resistance on the part of teachers not as mere backwardness but as an often-reasonable suspicion of educational novelties foisted upon them on account of someone else's fashionable idea of progress.
November 1, 1995
4 min read
Education Current Events in Brief
Teaching Tolerance
The National Education Association this past summer passed a resolution supporting the celebration of Lesbian and Gay History Month "as a means of acknowledging the contributions of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals throughout history.'' The move drew a quick and angry response from Beverly LaHaye, president of the Washington-based Concerned Women for America. She fired off a letter to her group's 600,000 members, asking them to complain to the NEA and the U.S. Congress. The letter stirred debate and protests in a number of states, including Arkansas, Maryland, North Dakota, and Tennessee. In response, the union issued a statement clarifying that the resolution did not direct members to observe the month. It said the resolution supported the concept of an awareness month to "promote tolerance and eliminate name-calling and classroom jokes.'' Christine O'Donnell, a spokeswoman for the concerned women's group, scoffed at the response. "They're hiding behind semantics,'' she said.
November 1, 1995
5 min read
Education Findings
Snap Judgment: Fleeting first impressions may be as accurate as long-term thoughtful evaluations when it comes to sizing up good teaching. That finding, as counterintuitive as it seems, comes from a study conducted by Harvard University psychology professors Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal. The researchers showed nine undergraduate students 10-second clips of Harvard teaching fellows at work with their classes. In all the clips, there was either no sound or the teachers' voices were electronically distorted so the students couldn't hear what they were saying. The researchers asked the students to rate the teachers' performances based on what they had seen. Their collective responses, the researchers say, corresponded remarkably well with other independent ratings of the teachers based on an entire academic term's worth of observations. "Obviously, students pick up on certain nonverbal cues in teachers,'' Ambady says, "and their impressions are fairly accurate.'' The researchers also repeated the experiment with two- and five-second clips and with high school teachers and their students. They found that correlations between the quick judgments and the more deliberative evaluations, although diminished slightly with the shorter clips, remained high in all instances.
November 1, 1995
3 min read
Education Not A Prayer
A 16-year-old Utah student has lost an initial court battle to keep Christian songs out of the choir program at her Salt Lake City high school. U.S. District Judge Thomas Greene dismissed Rachel Bauchman's lawsuit filed earlier this year over the choir's performance of religious music at school concerts.
November 1, 1995
1 min read
Education Sleepy Heads
As most high school teachers know, some students just can't seem to stay awake in class, no matter how stimulating the lesson may be. Teachers often put it off to laziness or blame parents for failing to enforce a reasonable bedtime. But new research out of Brown University says the real culprit may be biology.
November 1, 1995
7 min read
Education Extra Credit
Deadlines
Following is a list of application deadlines for grants, fellowships, and honors available to individuals.
November 1, 1995
30 min read
Education Connections: Phony Conspiracy
David Berliner and Bruce Biddle could have written an important and helpful book analyzing the conservative reform agenda, documenting the heavy burdens placed on schools by the pathologies of American society, and laying out a prescription for school improvement. Indeed, their book, which inspired this month's cover story, does those three things passably well.
November 1, 1995
3 min read
Education Is The Education Crisis A Fraud?
Like a detective in a work of pulp fiction, David Berliner smelled a rat.
David Ruenzel, November 1, 1995
29 min read
Education Greater Expectations
A dozen years after a national commission proclaimed in A Nation at Risk that the U.S. education system was being threatened by "a rising tide of mediocrity,'' American high school students are taking more--and tougher--academic courses.
November 1, 1995
3 min read
Education Teen Birthrate Drops
Two separate reports released in September by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an apparent reversal of the trend of rising teenage pregnancy and birthrates that began in the late 1980s.
November 1, 1995
2 min read
Education New Rules For Pre-K
Five years ago, all you needed to manage a squirming group of 3- and 4-year-olds in the preschool programs that have sprung up in many public elementary schools was a general degree in elementary education.
November 1, 1995
4 min read
Education Report Roundup
Beginning this issue, Teacher Magazine introduces "Report Roundup'' in the Extra Credit section. Each month, we will briefly summarize the latest reports in education and related fields and provide addresses for those wishing to order copies. Topics featured in this month's roundup, which can be found on page 62, include homeless children, marijuana use, small schools, and school censorship.
November 1, 1995
4 min read
Education House Cuts Hit Home
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives want to slash $3.5 billion from the federal education budget, arguing that every sector must sacrifice to help erase the deficit. But they would have difficulty explaining that to Rossie Ramirez.
November 1, 1995
8 min read
Education A More Perfect Union
When Yolande Ramsay began teaching 1st grade last year, she nearly made herself sick from stress and nerves. "I was so lost, I felt like a fish out of water,'' the 25-year-old Dade County, Fla., teacher recalls.
November 1, 1995
6 min read
Education Social Promotion: An Empty Gift
One of education's dirtiest little secrets is the practice of social promotion. It's not a secret among educators, of course. But if the public ever really understood this practice, we'd have to brace for a firestorm. The theory behind social promotion is this: It is more damaging to students' self-esteem to retain them than it is to promote them, by some sort of special dispensation, to the next grade level. This holds true even if they have not mastered concepts and knowledge critical to the next level of learning.
November 1, 1995
3 min read
Education Opinion 'Too Smart To Teach'
W hen I was 5 years old and in 1st grade (I'd skipped kindergarten), Sister Patricia Ann asked me to help her teach my 36 classmates their consonants. Later in the year, while we were learning to tell time, Sister asked me once again to help out. I could count to 60 by both ones and fives--a skill especially useful in that earlier era when clocks had hands and faces, not digital readouts.
James Delisle, November 1, 1995
6 min read
Education Opinion The Kindness of Strangers
I teach English as a Second Language in a large American elementary school, the kind of school that is so large that a smile may be all I can offer some of the children. This past summer, I spent a month in Mexico, trying to learn Spanish. I learned new words and grammatical knowledge, but I also learned to see my ESL students through new eyes. Surprisingly, my Mexican summer brought to mind a poem by Emily Dickinson. These are lines for every teacher to ponder: They might not need me--yet they might-- / I'll let my Heart be just in sight-- / A smile so small as mine might be / precisely their necessity.
Maggie Rosen, November 1, 1995
4 min read
Education Opinion Rewriting History
Columbus Day of 1992 should have been the perfect occasion for teaching schoolchildren about American Indians or, as the city of Oakland, Calif., officially calls them, Native Americans.
Todd Gitlin, November 1, 1995
48 min read
Education Opinion The Best New Books To Read Aloud
Children these days don't like to read, won't read, can't read. That, at least, is what the pundits and media tell us. If it were true, however, there wouldn't be 5,000 new children's books published each year. Here are 20 of the most compelling, amusing, and startling new titles I've discovered since the last Teacher Magazine roundup a year ago. Read them aloud. Talk about them in class. Kids won't be able to resist.
Judy Freeman, November 1, 1995
9 min read
Education Letter to the Editor Letters
The Spark Is Gone
Plaudits to Robert Fried for getting to "the heart of the matter'' in his essay concerning the lack of passion in the classroom ["Viewpoint,'' October]. After teaching high school English for more than 30 years, I felt that early retirement was essential for the maintenance of my sanity because the spark was gone--not from me but from our educational institutions, which, over the years, have evolved from schools to management-driven clones of big business.
November 1, 1995
9 min read