Letters

We soldiers go out every day of the week and risk our lives for America, just to have people like these protesters spit on us when we return. If not for soldiers like me and the rest of the military, people in this country would not have freedom. And freedom is the most important thing that Americans have.

Sergeant Michael Johnson
United States Army
Fort Sill, Oklahoma


MAKING THE GRADE

Thanks to Nat Hentoff for focusing attention on the unconscionable state of too many New York City public schools ["Bloomberg vs. Failing Schools," February 5; "In School: The 'Success' of Failure," February 12]. It is, however, misguided to rely upon standardized test scores to measure schools' success or teachers' efficacy. In fact, it is downright misleading to use such tests for purposes for which they were never intended and are not psychometrically designed. Rather, these tests are enacted by state and federal legislators intent on ignoring educational research and on placating a public rightly hungry for "accountability" and business leaders eager to increase their profits.

Hentoff points out the sharp increase in the high school dropout rate since the new Regents exam graduation requirements were enacted. Educational researchers and teachers all knew this would happen. We also know what it takes to create successful urban schools: small classes at the primary level; small schools with strong curriculum-oriented leaders; local decision making by school staff; ongoing community and parental connections; wraparound physical and mental health services and supports; the abolishment of grade retention; consistent supervision and professional development of school personnel; and safe and fully supplied classrooms (in addition to teacher quality, as Hentoff points out).

As we sit and watch our schools crumble while the prison industry flourishes, we must begin to wonder about not only the economics of depriving our youth of free and appropriate schooling (it is much less costly to run a quality school than a shoddy prison) but also the class, race, and ethnicity of those first denied education and then incarcerated. What is this form of American apartheid designed to accomplish?

Celia Oyler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Teachers College, Columbia University

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