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What Multiple-Choice Exams Don't Cover

What Multiple-Choice Exams Don't Cover

Regarding the article ''Reading, Writing, and Phonics Coming Back to Calif. Schools,'' July 11: It saddens me to see California, once the leader in educational reform and innovation, being brought to its knees by the shortsightedness of whoever is in charge of funding.

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It is time to take a look at the testing programs that are being used to evaluate how much children know. Many of the tests no longer measure what is being taught in the classroom. They are multiple-choice tests based on surface-level memorization skills. Yet teachers are being held accountable for how children perform when the curriculum requires thinking and problem-solving.

I agree that all educators need to support standards of excellence, but also remember that there are all kinds of ways to learn, and flexibility is the key to teaching in the '90s.

Barbara A. Robinson

Grand Rapids, Mich.

As a physicist, I understand the need for concept-oriented thinkers such as Kenneth Goodman of the University of Arizona.

However, concepts need a rational and fundamental underpinning; thus the need for precise reading, accurate writing, word sounding, and memorized math tables.

Note the recent ''Apollo 13'' movie: First, when the three astronauts' lives were at stake, the engineers used fundamental slide rules, not calculators, to ensure their life-saving calculations were correct. Second, the operation's manager used a chalkboard because the overhead projector was undependable. And third, the necessary electrical power-saving procedures were not computer-resolved or even resolved by team effort but by one man thinking through and testing sequences based on fundamental understanding of the spacecraft's operation.

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Leo C. Rogers Mesa, Ariz.

A wetland-ish proposal

In the article ''New Wetlands Proposal Wets Developers' Lips,'' July 31, the author quotes Michael Luzier of the National Association of Home Builders in Washington as saying, ''What the environmental community likes to argue is that we ought to let the scientists decide what a wetland is. We think elected officials ought to make that decision.''

This statement, however, fails to take into account one extremely important fact: A wetland, just like an ocean, is a region of the earth that has a fixed scientific definition, not one that can be legislated.

What Mr. Luzier proposes - a legislative rewrite of science - should not be an option in today's world.

Peter Harrell Atlanta

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