[Susan notes: Michael Winerip's column provoked a firestorm of outrage, with The NY Times shutting off comments at 292. These letters are excellent.]
Submitted to New York Times but not published
"A Highly Regarded Principal, Wounded by GovernmentĂ˘€™s Good Intentions," by Michael Winerip (On Education column, July 19), makes clear that the federal governmentĂ˘€™s allocation of school grants is grossly unfair.
As reported in the column, Joyce Irvine was removed as principal of a Vermont elementary school Ă˘€śbecause the Burlington School District wanted to qualify for up to $3 million in federal stimulus money for its dozen schools.Ă˘€ť
By evaluating only raw test scores and not the context of those scores and their improvement over time, the government deprives schools of much-needed funds and educators.
It would obviously be very difficult for the Obama administration to carry out an in-depth analysis of such context and progress for every school in the nation. Therefore, this responsibility should be given to school districts or state governments.
These smaller bodies can more effectively analyze school performance based on a set of standards set forth by the federal government. In this way, the Obama administration will be spared the daunting task of evaluating individual schools, but can still allocate grants more accurately based on concrete educational progress.
We can't let prize educators like Joyce Irvine be victim to the perils of bureaucracy and one-sided judgment. Our children are just too important.
Washington, July 19, 2010
To the Editor:
Using test scores to evaluate students and teachers seems like a good idea, but it ignores the realities of teaching students who have vastly different backgrounds and aptitudes.
President Obama's Race to the Top is yet another well-intentioned program thatĂ˘€™s far too prescriptive and ignores important classroom realities. ItĂ˘€™s another shot in the dark by elite planners who didnĂ˘€™t bother listening to classroom teachers and, as a result, chose the wrong tools.
Under President George W. Bush, school districts lost federal funds if they failed to meet specific benchmarks. But President Obama's program wonĂ˘€™t even give the fiscally strapped states the money until certain policies are in place.
Thomas M. Stephens
Columbus, Ohio, July 20, 2010
The writer is professor emeritus at the College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State University.
To the Editor:
Readers of the column should understand that the formulas defining failing schools under Race to the Top and its predecessor, No Child Left Behind, are a poor fit for schools that enroll large numbers of non-English-speaking students.
Wheeler Elementary in Burlington, Vt., is an extreme example, but countless effective schools here in California and elsewhere have been sanctioned under these provisions of the law.
I hope that Race to the TopĂ˘€™s achievement formulas will be refined to measure these students' yearly progress toward the goal of English literacy and school achievement, and perhaps to exempt new arrivals from testing for their first year in American schools.
Culver City, Calif., July 19, 2010
The writer is a former president of California Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages, a statewide professional organization.
To the Editor:
The search for a new principal for the Wheeler Elementary School in Burlington, Vt., should be successful. The search, required to comply with the rules for federal grant applications, should be able to find a principal who is knowledgeable about Burlington, who is a central office employee in the district, and who is an acknowledged school improvement specialist who has been successful in turning around a high-poverty school.
That person is Joyce Irvine, the former principal of the Wheeler Elementary School.
Leonard J. Lubinsky
New York, July 19, 2010
The writer is a former school superintendent in Erving, Mass., and the founder and current co-director of the Teacher Licensure programs at the Hampshire Educational Collaborative in Northampton, Mass.