Standards debate more than just testing Your Oct. 19 article, "If these are high standards, we don't want them," publicizes the very real possibility that the American government-run schools are going to throw the baby of standards and high expectations for kids in inner-city schools out with the bath water of poor teacher training and inept state administrators.
The attack on the standards movement rests on some fallacies. First, teachers have been taught by "experts" that the way to increase test scores is to give up engaging teaching methods and go to "drill and kill."
Tennessee's Value-Added Analysis System (TVAAS) has clearly demonstrated that this belief is erroneous. By focusing on "gains," and asking whether each child is learning at least as much as the national norm each year, we have found that many of our schools are able to exceed that norm. The fact is, schools that use the most engaging methods of teaching are also doing the best at helping children make achievement gains. Maryville Middle School, in Tennessee, has led all middle schools in the state since TVAAS results started coming out. Are parents pulling their children out? No. The school has a waiting list of out-of-county parents wanting to pay tuition to get in. One computer for every three students, emphasis on cooperative and individual projects - all the "good stuff" that one of your sources, Alfie Kohn, claims is incompatible with standards. Clearly, the drumbeat of "standardized tests kill good teaching" is out of rhythm with reality. So, why do we keep hearing this argument? As pointed out by your article, some states have created some ridiculous and unrealistic tests.
So why are some "education leaders" leading the charge against standards? Maybe they really believe that teachers and schools that aren't doing well are being held back by them. But, perhaps, they've also seen the thorny problems they will have to face if they admit that teachers are incredibly important. Where are these highly effective teachers? In the inner-city schools or in the suburbs? As long as policy leaders can pretend that teachers are "commodities," they can ignore inequitable distributions of effective teachers. It's a sad day when well-to-do parents of high-achieving kids are led to campaign against standardized testing due to the disinformation campaign of a few "education professionals" and the ineptness of state administrators. Especially since those test scores, analyzed on a value-added basis, offer hope for better teaching and learning for both their kids, and for kids who aren't nearly as fortunate. David N. Shearon, Nashville, Tenn. Member, Nashville Board of Education
Pokmon perils Regarding "Pokmon: new scourge of the schoolyard" (Oct. 4): You write that "in San Diego, the parents of five children ... filed a class-action suit alleging Pokmon makers are encouraging their children to gamble." Any parent giving their nine-year-old money to spend on something they disagree with is doing the same. Paul Fisher, West Chazy, N.Y.
Where is US "concern" for Iraqis? In his Oct. 13 opinion column David Newsom writes, "Washington's concerns for the health and welfare of the Iraqi people should be clear." Mr. Newsom should cite our initial bombing of Iraq in 1991, purposely demolishing civilian targets such as water and electrical infrastructures. Or perhaps the total economic sanctions designed so that the Iraqi people (for whom we have such concern) could not rebuild their bombed cities. Or maybe he would like to bring up the maintenance of sanctions over the past 9 years, causing widespread hunger and other problems as proof of "Washington's ample record of concern." Daniel H. Stone, San Francisco
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