February 1992

This Issue
Vol. 03, Issue 05

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Following is an example of the "exhibitions'' that Horace's school would use in lieu of traditional standardized tests to assess student progress.

A. From American History

Christine Franklin was a sophomore at North Gwinnett High School in suburban Atlanta in 1986, when, she claims, her economics teacher began making sexually suggestive remarks to her.

The instructor allegedly would bring Franklin into his office for discussions that began innocently but turned to questions about whether she would consider "doing it'' with an older man. The pattern of harassment, she says in court documents, continued for the next 15 months, with the teacher eventually pressuring her to have sex with him three times during school hours--twice in the field house and once in the school's stadium press box.

The committee had had a grueling session with the faculty the evening before. There had been small group discussions, this time without parents, students, or other community members. The resentment and suspicion among the faculty had been evident.

"Some of them just don't want to listen,'' Green complained.

Like thousands of schoolchildren around the country, Jill Ashworth's 5th graders in Franklin County, Tenn., equated mathematics instruction with tedium. "Even the best students will tell you it's boring,'' the Franklin Middle School teacher says. "They look at the word problems in books, and it just doesn't have meaning to them.''

Now, however, Ashworth and teachers in eight other states are involved in an experiment with researchers at Vanderbilt University that is designed to dispel such notions. The unlikely tool at the center of their strategy is a multimedia series known as "The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury.''

Substitutes Respond

As Elizabeth Schulz points out in her story on substitute teaching ["A New Face Every Day,'' November/December], a number of urban school districts acknowledge that they have a problem covering teacher absences for a variety of reasons. What is the solution? As a substitute teacher, I suggest the following innovative ideas:

INTERNSHIPS

Following is a list of internships and summer jobs available to K-12 teachers organized by application deadline. For additional listings, consult the National Directory of Internships cost: $24.50. Contact: National Society of Internships and Experiential Education, 3509 Haworth Drive, Suite 207, Raleigh, NC 27609; (919) 787-3263. The National Guide to Educator Empowerment also provides listings of summer opportunities for teachers; cost: $49.95 plus $3.50 for shipping. Contact: Education Interface, P.O. Box 3649, Princeton, NJ 08543-3649; (800) ABC-FUND.

Readers of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal recently were confronted with prominently placed advertisements bearing a cryptic headline: "Why the St. Grottlesex education you enjoyed might not be the best idea for your daughter.''

Placed by the Emma Willard School, a 177-year-old boarding and day school for girls in Troy, N.Y., the ads were promoting research indicating that young women perform better and express greater confidence in a single-sex setting.

Following is a list of states that allow corporal punishment in schools:

Alabama
Arizona

I just quit my job as a public high school English teacher. I taught in some of the worst academic and vocational schools in New York City and, most recently, in a high school reputed to be one of the best academic schools in the Midwest. Lately, I became more embarrassed than ever to admit I was a high school teacher. More to the point, I became unwilling to be a part of a dysfunctional system that refuses to admit it isn't working. If something as important as children's education weren't at stake, I'd probably be willing to hang in there and keep my mouth shut. But as a teacher, I've taken all that I can, and it's now time for me to speak out.

When making the rounds as principal of Sandburg Elementary School in Springfield, Ill., Hazel Steskal is often pleasantly startled by the sentences that she hears coming out of the mouths of her 1st and 2nd graders. "I don't understand that,'' one will politely say to another. "Would you clarify that?''
Hazardous Gas: Forty-five percent of the schools in Colorado tested for radon have levels that exceed the federal "action level'' of 4 picocuries per liter of air. Schools were required to test for the potentially health-threatening gas and submit results to the state by March of last year. Eighty percent, or 1,162, of the state's schools complied. The state did not require the schools with high readings to take follow-up measures, but many have.

Nearly 10 years ago, many teachers felt a sharp pang of recognition on reading about the travails of Horace Smith: a fictional English teacher at Franklin High School who worried about the educational compromises he was forced to make in a system that was not serving him or his students well.

<&FT3><&SZ10.0><&LS4><&CD100>Horace knew that he had too many students to teach, a curriculum that covered too many topics in too little depth, a grade structure that erroneously treated all youngsters of the same age alike, and a day fragmented into too many parts. Most importantly, he knew that he expected too little of his students.

It happens at the same time every Sunday evening. Just as Mike, Morley, et al. make way for Murder, She Wrote, feelings of uncertainty and apprehension engulf me. These charged emotions concerning the inevitable approach of Monday are new. I love teaching and the often exhilarating atmosphere of our secondary schools. However, such is not the case this year. I am a teacher without students to call my own--another casualty of the recession and reduced state funding for education. I am a substitute.

Sleep only proves to be a temporary respite from my pervasive thoughts of gloom and doom. I awaken every couple of hours. When the alarm clock finally starts to beep, I curse the dawning of the new day. As I shave, shower, dress, and eat, a little voice reminds me that all of these predawn efforts could be fruitless. I may not even work today.

Arthur Wise is discussing the troubled state of math education in America's schools. He cites two recent statistics from federal studies: Almost half of the country's 12th graders can't perform 8th grade math, and more than 40 percent of math teachers did not major in math and are not certified to teach it.

Wise sees a direct connection between those statistics: "Too many of our math teachers do not have the subject matter and pedagogical preparation to ensure that all of our youngsters achieve at the level that we hope they will achieve.'' In short, poorly prepared teachers produce poorly educated students.

Back in the mid-1980s, not long after he published Horace's Compromise, Theodore Sizer was describing to a group of prominent educators and policymakers his plans for his recently created "Coalition of Essential Schools.'' He said he hoped to recruit between five and 12 schools over the next few years that would be guided by his philosophy of education and would implement his ideas about how a school should be organized and run. He expected the project would take at least 10 years and require even longer before showing real results.

In the face of a newly proclaimed crisis in public education, Sizer's very modest aspirations seemed embarrassingly inadequate to hold back the much heralded "rising tide of mediocrity.''

Helene Patterson and her boyfriend, Joe Temperino, both 17, display a condom they obtained from John Dewey High School, one of two schools to inaugurate New York City's controversial condomdistribution plan. The city board of education decided last year to let high schools hand out condoms to students without the knowledge of their parents. Since then, school officials in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Falmouth and Martha's Vineyard, Mass., have also agreed to make condoms more readily available to students in an effort to reduce the spread of AIDS. Many other districts are considering similar approaches. About 20 schoolbased clinics nationwide have been distributing contraceptives to students for some time. What is different about the new plans is that most would allow students to get condoms from a nurse, teacher, or vending machine on school grounds.
Don't Lose Sight Of The Children

Asserting that millions of young children living in stressful environments lack the security, support, and confidence to become successful students, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has set forth an ambitious national strategy to ensure that all youngsters enter school well-prepared.

Cancer. It's more than a word; it's a pronouncement. It calls for changes in lifestyle and work habits. It initiates one into a world of hospitals, operations, clinics, chemotherapy, vitamins, and health food. It changes exercise from merely keeping fit to battling for life. Cancer was found within me in early August of 1991.