"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Three Outstanding Letters...

Notice that Time and Newsweek wouldn't print these letters.

Submitted to Newsweek but not published

To the editor
Newsweek describes Pres. Obama's education plan as "centrist" ("More big effing deals," April 5, p. 33). Hardly. It is a radical plan, involving far more testing than we have ever seen in the history of American education.

According to the "Blueprint for Reform," released by the Department of Education in March, the new standards will be enforced with new tests which include "interim" tests in addition to those given at the end of year. No Child Left Behind only required reading and math tests. The Blueprint recommends testing in other subjects as well. The Blueprint also insists we measure growth, which could mean testing in the fall and in the spring, doubling the number of tests.

The most radical aspect of this plan is that there is no research showing that this vast expenditure of time and money will increase learning.

— Stephen Krashen


Submitted to Time Magazine but not published
To the editor

re March 29, 2010 p. 49 "Making the Grade"

Obama's plan, AKA "The Blueprint," gets a grade of "D." The reason it gets such a high grade is because it does call for literature-rich classrooms, teacher professional development, and self-directed student learning. One wonders how all that will fit in when in "The Blueprint," the word "standards" is used 48 times, "assessment,"37 times; "thinking," 2 times, "library," 1 time. "Reading," "writing," and "book" are never mentioned.

Using his own standards, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should be replaced. When he was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores for Chicago were dismal. Let Duncan play basketball with Obama. The Secretary of Education should be somebody who knows something about education.

The Good Ole Boys Club has got to go. Nepotism and profiteering should not continue from NCLB into Race To The Top and "the Blueprint" (for LEARN). Transparency is needed, but is not happening. The same people chosen by NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development), who stacked the deck on the National Reading Panel are now choosing the recipients of the RTTT (Race To The Top) grants.

Education is not about which company can make the most money with their tests. It is about developing a life long love of learning. This cannot be read into "The Blueprint."

— Jane Watson


Published in New York Times
April 4, 2010
To the editor

In "Enforcing School Standards, at Last" (editorial, March 31), you assert that teachers’ unions reacted fiercely to the concept of taking student achievement into account when evaluating teachers. There are many reasons this is so.

I teach English to high school sophomores. I first encounter my students in their mid-teens and for merely 45 minutes each day. I have no influence on their upbringing, family lives, social conditions or habits. I can’t control their attendance or whether they do homework.

Also, on what basis will I be evaluated? Test scores? Based on what tests? Will they measure students’ appreciation of literature, their formation of values and priorities, their social skills or myriad other aspects of education?

Perhaps we need new ways to evaluate teachers, but until the discussion moves from vague platitudes to an earnest discussion of the issue, teacher unions will continue to object.

The writer is the United Federation of Teachers representative at DeWitt Clinton High School.

— Alan Ettman

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