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A Federal Case

I was disappointed in your "Research" section article on the federal Title I program "Why Doesn't Title I Work?" [November/December 1997]. It was obviously biased. The article did not present substantive evidence to support its premise. I have been a Title I teacher for five years. Although it may be true that Title I students do not perform at levels comparable to "high achieving" students, neither do average students. However, without Title I support, it is doubtful these students would succeed at all. My students know that I am there to help them understand and learn. They know I provide support for them when their regular classroom teacher may not be able to. Moreover, my students are some of the hardest-working students in the school, and their parents are shown effective ways to support their children's achievement.

Sorry. Title I does work. And it works to help some of the neediest students in our nation.

Mari Nichols
Homer, Michigan

Unfairly Tarnished

Although I applaud principal Irwin Kurz's success and innovative talents, I question where you got some of your information about P.S. 161 "The Jewel In The Crown," [October 1997]. Your article maligned not only me but also the staff, many of whom worked at P.S. 161 from 1970 through 1986 when I was principal there.

I wish to respond to some of the points made in the article. First, P.S. 161 was never "on a slide" in the 16 years that I was principal. Our test results were always in the top half of the district and for many years showed improvement each year despite high pupil mobility. A study of pupil achievement and performance on standardized tests showed that our students who started at P.S. 161 in kindergarten or 1st grade and remained with us until graduation were performing two or more years above grade level in reading and math. It was always interesting to me that parents fought to have their children attend P.S. 161, sometimes even falsifying proof of residence.

The Open Court program, which the article suggests was introduced by Kurz, was introduced by Edward Isseks, an assistant principal, and myself in the early 1970s and was used most successfully by our teachers.

Moreover, many of the teachers cited in the article were hired and trained by me and my administrators. The "family illness" that the article says distracted me from my work was the death of my daughter; it did not affect my performance or other efforts at the school and should not have been mentioned in the story.

Contrary to what your story says, Irwin Kurz did not inherit a school on a slide but a school with fine teachers, a philosophy of child advocacy, and a supervisory staff with a tradition of excellence and concern for the children. Kurz and his staff have built on that strong foundation to achieve their present success.

Leonard Epstein
Cranbury, New Jersey

Junk Journalism

My daughter's 8th grade teacher recently stated that an experiment had shown that mice navigate a maze more quickly after listening to classical music than after listening to rock. My daughter accepted this as fact; it was her teacher, after all, who said it. Skeptical, I had my daughter find the source of this phenomenal discovery, which turned out to be the caption "Of Mice And Music" under a photo in your October 1997 issue.

The "experiment" was performed by a high school junior. The young man's curiosity is laudable, and his hypothesis was certainly interesting—not to mention "politically correct." However, I have no doubt that even the most cursory scientific examination would show that his conclusion is invalid and that his results are based on flawed methodology.

We live in an age of astounding scientific and technological accomplishment. What is taking place in research labs throughout the world is beyond the reach of even educated and intelligent citizens. Those who lack an elemental understanding of science and technology become easy prey for the promoters of "junk science." Certainly, a claim that mice possess sufficient intelligence to appreciate Mozart should be questioned. Perpetuating such a claim without verifying its authenticity is irresponsible.

Russ Armstrong
Becker, Minnesota


I just read your October 1997 issue and the article "She's Gotta Habit." The information about teen smoking was very familiar. I am the principal at North Kent High School, an alternative high school for at-risk students. About 80 of our students smoke. More than a year ago, when we were ordered to close our area where students could smoke, I began to search for ways to help these students quit. Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids became our partner, and we created a smoking-cessation program.

In April, the program will be two years old. At the end of our first year, we had amazing results: 25 of the students that committed to quitting succeeded by the end of the school year. The program was recognized by the Michigan Alternative Education Organization.

We are on the verge of a program that really works, and as an educator, I want to share that with anyone working on the problem of smoking.

Donna Hendershot
North Kent High School
Comstock Park, Michigan

Teacher Magazine welcomes the opinions and comments of its readers. Letters should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited for clarity and length. Comment articles fall under two headings: Viewpoint and First Person. Essays should run about 1,000 to 1,250 words (four to five double-spaced pages) in length. Letters and submissions should include an address and phone number. Mail them to Teacher Magazine, 4301 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 250, Washington, DC 20008. Letters also may be sent to [email protected], essays to [email protected].

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