Education Week - December 12, 2012 - (Page 28)

28 EDUCATION WEEK n DECEMBER 12, 2012 n LETTERS to the EDITOR True Compromise Leaves ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ Behind To the Editor: Maybe it’s because I am a midlife career-changer moving into teaching that my perspective has been colored. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in a low-performing school district and understand the frustration and powerlessness that many parents feel. Maybe it’s because I spend most of my time either with students or my own children, so I’m constantly in referee mode, trying to encourage everyone to get along. Regardless of the reason, I reject the divisiveness of the public education vs. education reformer camps. I think the dichotomy itself is more harmful than any single position on any specific education issue, because it’s dismissive and divisive. The false dichotomy says there is a right side and a wrong side, and if you’re not on my side, you’re wrong. It says one side has morality on its side, and the other side is only motivated by self-interest. One side is benevolent, the other side is malevolent. Good vs. evil. Obviously, it goes without saying that immorality doesn’t need to be given a voice at the table. So if we subscribe to the false dichotomy, our aim isn’t compromise; it’s domination. We want our way and not their way. We aren’t forcing our views on others; we are nobly fighting injustice. We can’t back down one tiny bit. We must fight the bad guys every step of the way. Period. Anything else would be immoral. Evil. We talk a good game about bridging differences or finding common ground, but we don’t actually attempt to do that, do we? When we talk about dialogue or discussion what we really mean is that we are doing the talking and the other guys are recognizing our intellectual and ethical superiority and giving us our way. But what if we broke down the false dichotomy into individual issues for debate and discussion? What if we worked together under the assumption that every one of us sincerely cares about the future of public education? What if we approached each issue as though there were dozens of possible solutions rather than two, the right way and the wrong way? Sherrie Shackelford Bloomington, Ind. The writer is a substitute teacher in Bloomington, Ind., and an undergraduate education student at Western Governors University, an online university based in Salt Lake City. College Completion vs. Critics’ ‘Condescension’ To the Editor: The premise of your front-page article “ ‘Soft Skills’ Seen as Key Element for Higher Ed.” (Nov. 14, 2012) is that today’s teenagers lack the life skills and resiliency that their counterparts in earlier generations possessed and therefore must be trained to be resourceful and self-sufficient. This premise is framed by a college counselor whom you quote (in the second paragraph) as follows: “Millennials have had helicopter parents who have protected them,” so they “haven’t had the opportunity to struggle.” This sweeping assertion reflects a point of view that has already calcified into the conventional wisdom even though it’s based mostly on anecdote and, insofar as struggle is assumed to be beneficial, ideology. Fortunately, the broader argument of your article contains one key proposition that can easily be tested: “Many teenagers lack [crucial life skills], and that’s hurting college-completion rates.” Hmm. How might we substantiate the claim that fewer students these days are finishing college? Well, we might turn from Page 1 of this issue to Page 5, which features a short article with the headline: “K-12 and College Completion Rates Set Record.” Here we read that 33 percent of the population now graduates from college, as compared with 12 percent in the 1970s, with “record levels of college completion among all groups: men and women; blacks, whites, and Hispanics; and foreign- and native-born Americans.” Perhaps the problem isn’t too little competence on the part of students, but too much condescension and overgeneralization on the part of some adults. Alfie Kohn Belmont, Mass. executive officer of a company that benefits from getting corporate products into schools, claims it is time to recognize the reality of our long-term education funding crisis and welcome credible Fortune 500 companies into public schools. Public education and the rest of the American economy would be better served if these corporations paid their fair share of taxes. And, American society and culture would be better served by having students as critical thinkers rather than new customers. Tedd Levy Educational Consultant Old Saybrook, Conn. content areas learned through the second language, but that they often outscore their monolingual counterparts. As we look at the critical skills our students will need to live and work in the global environment and the need to provide common subject matter in English/language arts and math, offering all students the opportunity to learn a second language in school becomes a nobrainer. Martha G. Abbott Executive Director American Council on the Teaching Of Foreign Languages Alexandria, Va. COMMENTARY ONLINE n With this issue, Education Week begins a print publishing break that will last until Jan. 9, 2013. In the interim, be sure to look for online Commentaries, including a package of opinion pieces on the Common Core State Standards that is generating a lot of conversation on the Web. n New blog coming soon: In Multiple-Language Instruction Benefits the Common Core To the Editor: Your article “Literacy Instruction Expected to Cross the Curriculum” (“Rethinking Literacy: Reading in the Common-Core Era,” Special Report, Nov. 14, 2012) brought up clear examples of the development of reading and writing skills in disciplines beyond English/ language arts. Perhaps no other discipline exemplifies this strong connection more than the learning of other languages. All four strands of the Common Core State Standards for English/ language arts are developed and practiced as language-learners make meaning from what they hear, read, or view; engage in conversations; and present ideas and information. When students engage in learning a second language, whether it is English in the case of our English-language learners or a second language for our English-speaking students, the literacy development is enhanced as the learner benefits from the cognitive gain as well as the crosslanguage connections. The content of a language class is often the concept of another discipline (e.g., science, social studies, math), which is particularly true in a duallanguage immersion program in which the content of math, science, and other subjects is taught in the second language. Achievement data show that students not only master the Technology Should Fit Real Needs of Educators To the Editor: I have been a big proponent of using technology in schools for years, and the Commentary “Teacher Observation: Tech or No Tech?” (Oct. 31, 2012) by Kim Marshall really struck a chord in me. As Mr. Marshall shares in his timely essay, using laptops and tablets makes teacher observations a much more difficult task. As schools move to using laptops and iPads to do teacher evaluations, administrators may find that the high-tech tools are getting in the way of their capturing the events and interactions that really matter in the classroom. For the past 10 years, I have been utilizing digital-pen technologies that give me the best of both worlds. I can easily create or use an existing form, print it out, and fill it in using a digital pen. In doing this I have not changed my workflow, but when I am done writing on the form, I can dock my digital pen and within seconds a pdf is created with all of my notes captured. The form can then be emailed, archived, used to populate a database, or shared as I see fit. As I share with educators that I work with, let the end needs determine the tools that are best suited for the job—and in some cases it just may be a digital pen. Brian S. Friedlander Associate Professor of Education College of St. Elizabeth Morristown, N.J. Leadership 360, Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers will write about the challenges and opportunities facing school- and district-level administrators in the 21st century. n Follow Commentary on Facebook. n Follow Commentary on Twitter. @EdweekComm WHAT DO YOU THINK? Write a letter to the editor! Critical Thinkers Needed, Not School Sponsors To the Editor: Mickey Freeman, the author of the Commentary “Putting Brands to Work for Public Schools” (Nov. 7, 2012), who is also the chief Letters should be as brief as possible, with a maximum length of 300 words. Send to:

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - December 12, 2012

Education Week - December 12, 2012
Test Designers Tap Students for Feedback
Race to Top Draws Out New Suitors
Common Core Taught Through the Arts
Federal Attention on ELL Needs Seen to Wane
News in Brief
Report Roundup
NAEP Seeks to Test New Measure Of Student Poverty
In Rural Areas, After-School Efforts Must Stretch to Provide Services
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: McGraw-Hill Education Sale Highlights Publishing Trends
K-12, Higher Ed. Unite to Align Learning In Minnesota
States Pledge to Expand School Hours, Days
Absenteeism Linked to Low Achievement In NAEP Time Study
Union Pushes Higher Standards For New Teachers
Brand-New NAEP Report on Vocabulary Shows Same Old Gaps
Psychiatrists Revising Manual On Mental Disorders
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.C. Law Protects Educators From Online Harassment
Blogs of the Week
Education May Not Benefit From Brighter Financial Outlook
K-12 Education Advocates Lobby To Avert Fiscal Cliff
Policy Brief
Louisiana’s Ambitious Voucher Effort Unclear Following Judge’s Ruling
BARNETT BERRY & FREDERICK M. HESS: Expanded Learning Time: An Avenue to Greater Change
DAVE POWELL: Confusing Achievement With Aptitude
ANITA N. VOELKER: Smokeless Santa? Sanitizing a Child’s World
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JAMES S. LIEBMAN: Ending the Great School Wars

Education Week - December 12, 2012