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[Susan notes: Addressing the topic of the mayor's new plan for evaluating the schools, these letter writers emphasize different points. Taken together, they truly reveal a naked emperor.

Since the New York institution of strong mayoral control of the schools is part of the Broad Foundation plan to eliminate school boards and put mayors in charge, anyone teaching in an urban area should pay close attention.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

A School Is More Than an A, B or C

To the Editor:

Re "50 City Schools Get Failing Grade in a New System" (front page, Nov. 6):

No doubt the mayor and the schools chancellor will now be the recipients of

unending grief from those schools and principals who feel they were graded


Grading schools is as absurd as grading students. The criteria for both are

equally detrimental to achieving the goals of a truly useful education:

self-awareness, an engaged citizenry and the skills necessary to generate

meaningful, dignified work.

Until we address the core societal conditions that now make such goals

unattainable for the vast majority, there is little hope that obfuscating

parlor tricks like high-stakes testing, free cellphones for every child and

schoolwide report cards will serve as successful incentives.

Roland Legiardi-Laura

New York, Nov. 6, 2007

The writer is producing a film on the history of schooling and is a guest

teaching artist at University Heights High School.


To the Editor:

Oh where to begin on the school report cards? Why use an A-to-F format to

grade an entire school, when educators are moving away from that kind of a

report card for our children because it is insufficient? Why base that grade

mostly on test improvement? Why use more high-pressure tests that don't

really gauge the students' ability or the quality of the school?

Our public schools are full of highly motivated, creative teachers. They are

often beaten down by large class sizes, lack of support, and more and more

testing. Do I need to mention that they do this for a salary that makes it

difficult to afford living in New York?

I urge all parents to ignore these report cards. Yes, some schools do a much

better job at teaching our children. Unfortunately, that is not reflected in

school report cards and test scores.

Ray Franks

New York, Nov. 6, 2007


To the Editor:

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein touts school report cards as a way to give

parents the information they need to evaluate a child's performance and a

school's progress. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Report card grades are based mainly on test scores. This means progress is

measured by a single score on a single test on a single day.

Parents want more. We want to know if our children are reading more books;

if their understanding is deeper; if they ask intelligent questions; if they

are curious and creative; and if they can work cooperatively. No test score

will give us this information. Learning is complex, and assessments should

be, too.

Jane Hirschmann

New York, Nov. 5, 2007

The writer is co-chairwoman of Time Out From Testing, a statewide coalition.


To the Editor:

As in any endeavor, proper feedback given constructively is a desirable


Assessing the city's schools is laudable. However, the manner in which

assessment is done must be above reproach, especially if consequences

(favorable and unfavorable) for extreme performances follow.

The populace is immediately impressed when it hears that sophisticated

statistical analyses are being used, and cannot question them. Yet

statistical analyses are only as good as their designer, and their

interpreter not always beyond reproach!

As a case in point: In our review of the New York State Math-A Regents exam

in 2003, while our panel knew that there were a number of faulty questions,

our psychometrician insisted that this was irrelevant, and that only the

statistical picture was important!

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others is good, but let's make sure

that these eyes are accurate and that we see the entire picture. This can be

more than just the result of a statistical analysis.

Alfred S. Posamentier

New York, Nov. 6, 2007

The writer is dean, School of Education, City College, CUNY.


To the Editor:

I was the psychologist at P.S. 191 for a decade (grade A). My daughter

attended the Center School for four years (grade D).

The staffs at the two schools are equally hard-working and dedicated.

Furthermore, the Center School, which works to have a diverse population,

requires that everyone take Latin from fifth to eighth grade, and the

students perform well both at the school and afterward. Its principal's

dedication to the school and the students is unquestionable.

It is not the principal's job to defend the Center School. It is the

chancellor's job to explain a formula that devalues one of the best middle

schools in the city.

Charles Merrill

New York, Nov. 6, 2007

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