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January Letters

What our readers' are saying

The Irony of Prizes

I had seen the write-up about the 2008 Broad Prize for Urban Education given to the Brownsville (Texas) Independent School District (Editor’s Letter, December 2008). I was unaware that the district had not met NCLB requirements. Is it true that the district refused to test its students with authenticated objective tests of their academic achievement?

Patrick Groff, professor of education emeritus, San Diego State University

Editor’s note: The district’s NCLB status will be explained in an upcoming issue.

The Value of Media Programs

I appreciate DA’s publishing an article about the essential need to maintain and expand media programs in our schools (“School Libraries Renewed,” October 2008). In Florida our budgets are in disarray and some principals have cut their media specialist positions.

I especially appreciated the reference to the importance of flexible scheduling. As a result of budget cuts, many of our media specialists are being asked to teach specific classes, thus taking them away from their mission of serving all students. But as always, they are creative and flexible and have made this situation work to the best of their abilities.

Mel Pace, director of media and instructional technology, School District of Osceola County, Fla.

IEPs for Every Child

I enjoyed Daniel E. Kinnaman’s column on individualized education plans for every child (“Change Every Child Needs,” October 2008). A type of IEP is made for first- through sixth-graders in Evaline Elementary School, a small, rural school in Washington state. We have been using what was known in the 1970s as Model Classroom. We have modified the design as needed, but basically each student is assigned a personal prescription sheet every week, with assignments in reading, math, phonics and English. A teacher or educational assistant reviews their performance and discusses problem areas.

Upon completing a unit, if they pass the test with a 70 or higher, they move to the next unit. It requires an assistant in the classroom to help check off student work, the only additional expense. Small class sizes allow teachers to work one on one with students to ensure mastery.

I have used this program successfully in my multigrade classroom for the past 20 years with up to 27 students in grades 3 through 6. For several years I have had IEP students with significant disabilities. I believe the prescription sheet model could easily be adapted to traditionally sized schools.

Ann Stout, teacher, Evaline Elementary School Evaline (Wash.) School District 036

In a recent blog post reacting to the same column, another reader writes:

I agree with the customization principle, but I also believe that students need to assume more responsibility for their learning. They can’t rely on the “monolithic structure” or superqualified teachers to “push” them to achieve. They have to want to learn, and that only comes from relevant curriculum and interesting learning situations, not boring memorization for passing standardized tests. If we can get rid of the mindless standardized testing we can return to practicing the craft of teaching, and learners will be more interested in learning and show us what they want to know by contributing to the world around them.

Clay Chadbourne, reader, The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate blog

Letters to the editor may be sent to, or mailed to Judy F. Hartnett, District Administration, 488 Main Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851. Selections that are published may be edited for length and clarity, and become the property of District Administration.

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