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Success Story

I read the feature article “Breaking The Silence” in your August issue with much interest as I have a 26-year-old son who is autistic. We introduced him to facilitated communication last February, and it has opened up a whole new world for him—and us as his parents.

He did so well facilitating in such a short time that we purchased a Canon communicator for him. It wasn't long before he conveyed to us that he loved to write poetry.

A poem he wrote was a semifinalist in a National Library of Poetry contest. Since then, he has entered six more contests and is currently composing his own book of poetry.

We very much endorse the use of facilitated communication. It is such a wonderful feeling for us to communicate with our son for the first time in 26 years. He is so happy, and there are indications that this is affecting his behavior.

Niels Larsen
Appleton, Wis.

Cruel Deed

I was really saddened to read “The Hanging Of Billy Creep,” by Marlis Day, in the August issue. I agree with her comments that children today are no longer creative and spend too much time with their lives being programmed for them. I enjoyed her stories of creative times in the summer, with the glaring exception of the Billy Creep story. Although Day did express some concern for Billy, I was angered to read she believes the experience was part of “possibly one of the best days of my life.” I hope I speak for other adults who were teased and bullied as children when I say I am certainly glad my children will never have Day for a teacher. She and her friends were cruel to Billy, and she shows no remorse for her deed. I hope some day she realizes that childish pranks can leave a lasting scar on the victim.

Pamela Rosen
Lexington, Mass.

Please put Marlis Day on my “Least Wanted List.” I would rather have my child taught by almost anyone else. What she described were not the “Good Old Days” but the “Bad Old Days.”

Elaine Silny-Brasca
Miami, Fla.

Thanks Partner

Teacher Magazine has done it again. I am designating Teacher my personal “partner in education” after receiving another grant as a result of reading “Extra Credit.” I credit this resource for guiding me to two of the most fantastic experiences of my teaching career: the 1990 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program and the 1992 Council for Basic Education Independent Study Program. Both grants had a profound impact on me, personally and professionally.

Mary Sue Ellinger
Hansen Elementary School
Cedar Falls, Iowa

Testing: Two Views

Ruth Mitchell's commentary [“Verbal Confusion,” August] only serves to confuse the issues surrounding testing even more. She begins by saying tests “usually” are machine readable or multiple choice. But one-third of the way through her essay she says tests “are” multiple choice, etc.

Ever since I sat at the other end of the log from Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago, 27 years ago, I and my colleagues have been constructing tests that measure higher-order thinking skills, that ask students to construct theories of phenomena they observe and to solve problems that they have never seen before using techniques they have already learned.

Even multiple-choice items can be constructed that measure more than simple recall of facts. Extrapolating graphs, eliminating information not necessary to solve a problem, drawing correct conclusions to an argument, and many other examples are rife in the measurement textbooks as examples. “Objective” does not mean “recall.”

I agree that responding in a paper-and-pencil mode to a question should not be the only way to assess student progress. Even now, researchers are considering the thorny problems of aggregating evaluations of student products to evaluate programs.

Tests should not be the only game in town, but they need not suffer under such a “straw man” label as Mitchell describes them.

Marcus Lieberman
Wellesley, Mass.

In education, there is an apparently foolproof method for rapid affluence: open a testing service. Educational administrators seem the most gullible, quick-to-purchase people around. They will seemingly buy anything if it contains at least two of the three magic words—”test,” “evaluation,” and “profile.” They become eager purchasers of any material that offers an opportunity to publicize alleged improvement in scholastic achievement in a particular school district structure. It's easy to lose your appetite when looking at the alphabet soup of tests inflicted on hapless students at all levels.

I wonder whatever happened to teacher-based evaluation and to those school systems with enough integrity to pass or fail students on the basis of a schoolyear achievement, rather than a memory-testing “evaluation by regurgitation” experience. It only takes a reading of reports on educational status and achievement to realize that this dependence on “third person” evaluations dissipates teaching for learning and emphasizes teaching to the test.

This might prove worthwhile if there was any available assurance that students retained the information they needed for the test after it was over. It seems no testing mill has been courageous enough to check on this post-test and post-graduation question.

There are viable alternatives to the “let's buy another testing service evaluation,” not the least of these being to put evaluation back in the hands of the teachers.

Harry Lawrence
Brownsville, Texas

Vol. 04, Issue 02, Pages 4-5

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