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Testing teachers

As a former public-school teacher, I have always admired Albert Shanker, but after reading the recent article about him, [``Teacher union chief Shanker uses all of US as classrooom,'' Feb. 25], I am concerned that in his desire to gain political power for his teachers he may be giving in to erroneous assumptions held by the large number of ``armchair'' educators in this country. The first erroneous assumption is that a test could be devised to measure a person's fitness for becoming a teacher. This notion ignores the cultural complexity of public schools. Here in Texas, for example, we have people who teach physics in Dallas, and people who teach youngsters how to raise livestock in Muleshoe. Some teach Shakespeare to gifted classes in Houston, and some basic reading in Spanish-speaking communities. The strength of the public-school system is in its responsiveness to diversity.

A second erroneous assumption is that because education majors generally do not score as highly on the SAT as some others do, they are ``second-raters.'' The truth is that the SAT does not measure the first-rate qualities needed to be a successful teacher. Patience, stamina, and moral integrity are much more vital to teaching than academic achievement, especially on the public-school level.

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The third erroneous assumption is that the promotion-and-rank policy in effect on the college level has been a great success and should be imposed on the public-school system. Actually, nothing has been as harmful to American education as the vying for position that goes on in colleges and universities. It is a system so inefficient that if applied to people who work as hard as public-school teachers do, it could cause enough strife to destroy the educational system.

Most problems associated with public schools stem from the fact that students are reared in a society that grossly undervalues intellectual joys while glorifying materialism and self-indulgence. Violet M. O'Valle Arlington, Texas

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''