October 1993

This Issue
Vol. 05, Issue 02

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Education has lost its direction, and, somewhere along the way, we forgot how simple it is. Instead, we began to rely on complicated rhetoric to define the simplest of tasks. Words and phrases abound: Cooperative Learning, Outcome-Based Education, Learning Styles, Authentic Assessment, Collaborative Learning, Whole Language, Transformational Units, Demonstrative Indicators, Constructivist Education.

It's not that I don't agree with what the words represent; it's just that I don't think we need to make it that complicated.

The students are participants in a novel summer internship program in which they are paid to work at local law firms, government agencies, and publicinterest law organizations. Many of this year's 62 interns also participate in a mock-trial competition, for which they are preparing on this July morning.
The Phone Factor

I applaud Jennifer Chauhan for her article "The Last Frontier'' [September], which thoroughly described the benefits of telephones in the classroom. In my role as president of a telecommunications company, I have seen many schools benefit from the use of telephones in the classroom, including the Lockwood (Mont.) school mentioned in your story, a school that is using telephones manufactured by my company.

DEADLINES

Following is a list of application deadlines for grants, fellowships, and honors available to individuals. Asterisks (

  • ) denote new entries.

Every day for a month, it was her ritual. The 2nd grade teacher at a small Catholic school in a Pennsylvania steel town would find time during a break or at lunch to slip out of the building and visit the sanctuary next door, where she would pray silently.

A Meaningless Term

After examining the 1990 and 1992 math results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a researcher for the Educational Testing Service has determined that students' grade levels mean little when it comes to mathematics achievement. The researcher, Paul Barton, charted the performance of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders on the same proficiency scale. He found that 4th graders who scored highest on the tests-- specifically, those who fell in the 75th percentile--were about even with 8th graders who scored toward the lower end of the scale. The scores of those 4th graders also paralleled those of 12th graders who ranked near the bottom. "In some sense, then, the term 'grade level' is meaningless in the United States,'' Barton writes in the summer issue of the company's newsletter, ETS Policy Notes, "for it tells little about what students know and can do.''

The Robert Taylor Homes, a two-mile-long stretch of high-rise buildings running parallel to the Dan Ryan Expressway, has the dubious title of being the largest of Chicago's 19 public housing developments. Shootings, rapes, and robberies are part of everyday life for the 15,000 people living there. As far back as 1968, a presidential commission on urban problems described Chicago's public housing this way: "The...child caught in such a social environment is living almost in a concentration camp from which he has little chance of escape.''

Not much has changed since then, and the slim chance of escape for the children of this camp is usually found at school. For many of those who live in the Robert Taylor Homes, their first school is Mary C. Terrell Elementary, a low-rise brick building surrounded by a tall security fence. However, by the time children reach the relative safety and order of Terrell Elementary, many are so far behind that they never catch up.


What's worse, the woman's low morale is contagious. "You talk to her, and you start to get tired,'' says Mayfield, whose cheery, rapid-fire speech makes low spirits seem impossible.

For those who have religious faith, she continues, it is much easier to retain hope about making it through the hoops and over the hurdles of public school teaching. "With faith you get tolerance,'' says Mayfield, an active Roman Catholic. "You begin to learn everything is not going to be solved overnight.''

October 1, 8, 15, 22, 29.

The Arts & Entertainment Network presents Pole to Pole, a series of eight one-hour documentaries. Hosted by Michael Palin, A&E's resident explorer, the series begins at the North Pole and journeys through Russia, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Africa en route to the South Pole. Along the way, Palin discusses geography, history, and cultural diversity. Each commercial-free segment begins at 7 a.m. (EDT).

Following is a list of arts resources that teachers may find helpful.

Great Paintings.

Edison Project's New Goal: To Run Public Schools

Christopher Whittle's idea was bold and controversial: The publisher and entrepreneur proposed raising $2.5 billion to open as many as 1,000 private, for-profit schools that would serve as models for reforming American public education. He called his plan the Edison Project.

To ordinary teachers, students, and parents, the debate over school reform, which is conducted mostly among policy wonks, must often seem very academic and remote. Issues such as standards and assessments, accountability, governance, outcomes, and site-based management seem vague and distant from the school and classroom. But, in truth, as the two feature articles and the book excerpt in this issue show, these seemingly abstract policy issues have real consequences for real people every day.

At first glance, Adele Jones ("The High Price Of Failure,'' page 34) is just another hard-nosed algebra teacher who flunked too many of her students, aroused the ire of her principal, and got fired. But, in fact, Jones' story raises, in a very human and personal way, some of the central questions of the school reform movement.

For the past two years, the education and political communities have been rushing pell-mell to establish world-class standards in each of a half-dozen subject-matter areas--mathematics, science, English, geography, civics, and the arts.

While the need to establish such standards is almost indisputable, we may be headed for disaster unless we carefully plan for their use.

But for now, these African fish are the focus of an unusual curriculum designed to provide students at South Bend High School with the scientific background they need to pursue careers in aquaculture, a billion-dollar global industry that the U.S. Agriculture Department expects will employ increasing numbers of high school and college graduates in coming years.

Lazelle, whose formal training is in earth science, is one of a small but growing number of teachers across the country who are using an aquaculture curriculum to lure students into learning the mathematics and science required to be fish farmers.