Education Week - July 18, 2018 - 28
LETTERS to the EDITOR
Students Are Not 'Mini-Adults'
To the Editor:
In a recent Commentary, the authors
outlined how serious the plight of our young
people is today, highlighted by the stunning
increase in their suicide rates ("Could
Altruism Curb Teen Suicide?" June 20,
2018). I also appreciate that their suggested
"benefit" reforms could move education in
the right direction. However, a lifetime of
trying to determine how we can best prepare
children for the future has taught me that the
roots of the suicide problem go much deeper.
Our present education system wrongly
sees children as mini-adults. Too focused on
funneling students to become future workers
or college students, the current educational
system fails to recognize the individual
potential of its students. Each child is unique,
gifted with a potential which is guided by a
Education should first serve each child's
potential-the foundation for a successful
and fulfilling life. When education does this,
students are in a better position to receive the
support they need to succeed in the classroom.
It's my experience that kids generally need
to face a challenge in adolescence in order
to develop the deep confidence needed to
manage life. When teachers help a student
conquer this challenge, the student gains
trust in those teachers and is motivated to
participate in learning.
Students are often in a defensive position
in the classroom, but they can develop a more
open attitude when teachers show that they
are willing to help them prepare for life. As a
result, when teachers help students, students
are then encouraged to reach out and help
their peers. Connecting with students on
a more personal level contributes to both
scholarship and character development.
Note the educational emphasis here on
the individual student reflects this nation's
founding principles of individuality and
equality. Take care of the student, and the
student will prosper and be your ally.
Joseph W. Gauld
John Hattie Is Still 'Wrong'
To the Editor:
Peter DeWitt recently responded to a blog
post I wrote in which I criticized the work of
John Hattie ("John Hattie Isn't Wrong. You
Are Misusing His Research," Peter DeWitt's
Finding Common Ground blog, edweek.org,
June 26, 2018). DeWitt claimed that I am
"misreading [Hattie's] research." DeWitt
linked to my post, and readers can easily
resolve this question for themselves.
My whole point in the post was to note
that Hattie's error is in accepting metaanalyses without examining the nature of
the underlying studies of feedback. I offered
examples of the meta-analyses that Hattie
included in his own meta-meta-analysis. They
are full of tiny, brief lab studies, studies with
no control groups, studies that fail to control
for initial achievement, and studies that use
measures made up by the researchers.
These examples are not cherry-picked; they
are at the core of Hattie's review. In it, Hattie
cites only 12 meta-analyses. I looked at the
individual studies making up every one of
those meta-analyses I could find that had an
average effect size above +0.40.
In DeWitt's critique, he has a telling quote
from Hattie himself, who explains that he
does not have to worry about the nature or
quality of the individual studies in the metaanalyses he includes in his own meta-metaanalyses, because his purpose was only to
review meta-analyses, not individual studies.
This makes no sense. A meta-analysis (or a
meta-meta-analysis) cannot be any better
than the studies it contains.
If Hattie wants to express opinions about
how teachers should teach, that is his right.
But if he claims that these opinions are based
on evidence from meta-analyses, he has to
defend these meta-analyses by showing that
the individual studies that go into them
meet modern standards of evidence and have
bearing on actual classroom practice.
Robert E. Slavin
Center for Research and Reform in Education
School of Education
Johns Hopkins University
Where Are the School Librarians?
To the Editor:
Although there may have seemed to
be a drop in the number of library media
specialists (sometimes also referred to as
school librarians), they have not been merely
fired ("Number of Librarians Plummets in
Schools, Data Find," May 30, 2018). Some
have had their duties changed unofficially.
After the Great Recession of 2008, school
librarian jobs were scarce. As a library
media specialist in Maryland, I found that
only one librarian was allocated for every
two schools. School librarians still worked
full-time, but they were required to split their
time between two schools. This meant not
only trying to update libraries that had been
closed since 2008, but also trying to meet the
social-emotional demands of students who
were being bullied.
As a library media specialist, I had to
develop various programs that would not only
help to update and organize the library but
also supplement the students' daily lessons.
I reached out to authors who donated books,
invited guest speakers, gained sponsorships,
obtained equipment, and applied for a grant
that awarded the library $2,000 worth of
milkweed flats for a butterfly garden.
This job was not without additional
challenges: I would often be asked to cover a
teacher as a spur-of-the-moment substitute,
supplementing the teacher's lessons with
library and media-themed topics. My
irregular schedule, split between two schools,
also impeded students' comprehension of
library lessons and programming. And,
finally, special school events, standard testing,
and other schedule changes often interfered
with my normal meeting times with students.
The library media specialist or school
librarian job position has been updated to fit
the needs of the individual school. The school
librarians are not gone.
Lorette S.J. Weldon
Independent Library Media Specialist
College Park, Md.
Don't Track Algebra
To the Editor:
As the president of the National Council
of Teachers of Mathematics, I applaud the
de-tracking efforts of San Francisco Unified
School District in middle school math, which
creates pathways for all students to have
access to continued studies in the subject
("In San Francisco, A Bold Effort to De-
Track Algebra," June 13, 2018). The article
indicates that students who are traditionally
underserved in math are showing
improvement in achievement and increased
enrollment in advanced studies in the subject
without negative impacts on other students.
It's important to note that SFUSD made
considerable investments in supporting
teachers in refining their teaching practices
and that the district provided math coaches
for teachers. The district is also making
curricula changes. As the story states,
de-tracking requires far more than simply
rearranging students into heterogeneous
It requires supporting the mindset that all
students are capable of doing rigorous math;
it requires supporting educators who teach
students with diverse needs and diverse ways
of learning; it requires making sure that the
curriculum is rigorous; and it requires building
classroom communities that support all
NCTM's recently published book Catalyzing
Change in High School Mathematics:
Initiating Critical Conversations recommends
the elimination of tracking students. Other
school districts should look at SFUSD as
an example. It is time to identify tracking
practices and stop them. Tracking can lead to
the distribution of students in high- and lowability classrooms in ways that are correlated
with the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic
inequities found in the broader society.
It's time to begin the courageous work
needed to intentionally and systematically
remove tracking's barriers and the associated
instructional practices. Instead, we must
move toward creating pathways for success in
mathematics for each and every student.
Robert Q. Berry, III
National Center for Teaching Mathematics
Literacy Is a Civil Right
To the Editor:
I read with interest the article in Education
Week where the court ruled in Gary B. v.
Snyder that the U.S. Constitution does not
guarantee literacy (Curriculum Matters blog,
edweek.org, July 2, 2018). I am the founder
of Right to Read-Maryland, a coalition of
educators and organizations who have the
common goal of improving teacher preparation
as it specifically relates to reading skills
acquisition for all. We believe that literacy is a
Our Declaration of Independence
guaranteed the right to "life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness." In 1776, the common
meaning of happiness was prosperity,
thriving, and well-being. According to
Aristotle, happiness is the final end, how
well you have lived up to your potential as a
human being. If we accept these definitions
of "happiness," we can argue that literacy is
a right because without being able to read,
one cannot thrive or reach one's potential
There is a crisis in literacy in the United
States, as evidenced by scores on the National
Assessment of Educational Progress. In 2000,
the National Reading Panel recommended
practices for effective reading instruction
after the completion of over 100,000 research
studies. The fact that many of our institutions
of higher education are still not teaching this
information with fidelity is outrageous.
Every state should require a rigorous test
of evidence-based foundations of reading as a
requirement for certification of all elementary
teachers reading specialists, and special
education teachers. We need to awaken our
citizens to the need for meaningful action,
which is long overdue.
Right to Read-Maryland
Education Week takes no editorial positions,
but publishes opinion essays and letters
from outside contributors in its Commentary
section. For information about submitting an
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Many teachers do not want the union to be their voice in the media and the government."
- bridpath, responding to Neal McCluskey's June 27 Commentary, "Why the Court's Ruling Against Mandatory Union Dues Is a Good Thing"
28 | EDUCATION WEEK | July 18, 2018 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary