May/June 1994

This Issue
Vol. 05, Issue 08

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Louis Romano became a teacher almost by accident. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1958 at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, went into the Army for two years, and then worked long enough in business as a management trainee to decide that he did not care for the world of commerce. Like the good young Catholic that he was, he went to his parish priest seeking direction.

The priest had an idea. He said the parish school needed teachers and that Romano ought to give teaching a try. That was more than 30 years ago. Now Romano (whose real name is not being used here in the interest of candor) has decided to call it quits. He is almost 61 years old and will retire next year from a public school district in a small city in northern New Jersey, where he has spent nearly his entire career.

Frustrated with the cost and time associated with recruiting bilingual teachers, an increasing number of districts are looking to their own language-minority students for prospective instructors. The Fontana program, which helps student participants pay for college, is seen as one of the most comprehensive models in this nascent movement.

As Nievas points out, it not only helps the district but gives the students a leg up, as well. "There are kids you may think are going straight to McDonald's, but who are trying to improve,'' Nievas says. "This program is something our schools aren't doing enough of: saying, 'We can help you achieve your goals.' ''

Following is a list of selected resources teachers may find useful.

Original Settlers.

It is a cold, blustery day in late November, and teachers Rick Wormeli and Diane Hughart are perched on the tattered brown plaid couch that takes up one end of the paneled trailer that is Wormeli's classroom. Their laps are full of papers, folders, and cardboard boxes. They are feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Money Does Make A Difference, Researchers Say

For years, leading conservative critics of the public schools have argued that increases in education spending do not translate into improved student performance. In making that argument, many cite the research findings of Eric Hanushek, an economist and political science professor at Rochester University.

Ever since Socrates attacked the sophists for producing sophists, critics have observed that teachers tend to teach the way in which they themselves were taught. If they as children were placed in desks arranged in long, narrow rows, then they are likely to restrict the movement of their own pupils. If they spent years filling in blanks and bubbling in answers, then their own students are likely to be inundated with work sheets and multiple-choice tests. If silent obedience was expected of them, then they in turn are likely to equate respect with dutiful acquiescence.
Within the walls of Dodson Elementary School in Hermitage, Tenn., a Nashville suburb, is the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT), a three-year, $3 million research project funded by the computer company and the National Science Foundation. About 60 of the school's 3rd and 4th graders participate in the ACOT program, which attempts to infuse technology into every aspect of the curriculum. The classroom itself is chock-full of the kind of equipment most teachers only dream of: Apple computers, laser printers, VCRs, and camcorders.

But if ACOT is high-tech, Timothy Hamilton's 2nd grade classroom, just down the hall, is decidedly low-tech. Everywhere you look there are books, books, and more books. Big books. Little books. Hardcover books. Paperback books. Serious books. Silly books.

The arrangement is part of Kids' House--a program that places junior high students in a neighbor's home three hours a day, three days a week. The concept is deceptively simple, says Elliott Medrich, a board member of the Marcus Foster Educational Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes community partnerships with the Oakland public schools. No new infrastructure has to be put in place. Rather, the program combines the dynamics of caring adult role models, the school, parents or guardians, and adolescents. "It's got exactly the right mix of school, parent, community,'' says Medrich, a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Adds Ada Cole, the institute's executive director, "We think Kids' House has the potential to build back the sense of communities taking care of kids.''

A Case For Choice

I agree with John Merrow's argument that schools must find a way to teach values ["Our Policy Of Cowardice,'' April 1994], but I do not believe that it is possible to teach values in a common school without causing serious offense to someone's beliefs.

Following is a list of application deadlines for grants, fellowships, and honors available to individuals. Asterisks (
  • ) denote new entries.


Reversal Of Fortune

The Indian River, Del., school board voted in March to reinstate Adele Jones, the algebra teacher whose firing a year ago for giving too many students poor grades touched off a national debate. [See "The High Price Of Failure,'' October 1993.] The 5-4 vote came after a Delaware Superior Court judge ordered the school board to take another vote on Jones' case. The vote to fire Jones in June 1993 was 6-4. Since that time, three new members have joined the board, all of whom voted for reinstatement. Administrators had argued that Jones was an incompetent teacher because large numbers of her students received D's and F's, but the teacher insisted that she could not pass students who did not do their work and study hard. Those who did, she said, earned acceptable grades in her class.

May 4.

HBO's Lifestories: Families in Crisis series presents "Brotherly Love: The Trevor Ferrell Story,'' about a Philadelphia boy whose social consciousness is awakened by a homeless man. Air time: 7:30 p.m. (EDT).

His hair stands a foot high, proud, erect, rising above the crowd of people milling around the station. Yet he stands still, not a move, not even a twitch. You gape. Your gaze moves slowly to his eyes, which are huge and hypnotizing. You can tell that his eyes have never crinkled with laughter or shed a tear. The sun glints on his earring, and you notice the huge gold ornamentation in his left ear and the smaller one in his right. You shake your head in disgust and return your persecuting glare to those unfeeling eyes. He finally acknowledges your staring with a puzzled expression, and you turn away in fear.

Several others will notice him while he waits, sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for a half-hour. You may think that you know a lot about him from that quick glance, but you do not. I do. I should. He is my best friend.

Among the teachers at my high school, debates on tracking range from messy at best to vituperative at worst. Everybody has an opinion. Citing the "research'' does little to influence teachers who, rightly or wrongly, would rather rely on their own 20 years of classroom experience than on acade