Out with the Old, In with the "New"
The New Literacies" cover story highlights the disconnect between the realworld environment that students live in and what occurs in schools. Instead of embracing new technologies and using them to improve learning, schools still tend to downplay their importance in their students' future. In our part of Oregon we have hired an Information Literacy Coordinator to help educate local teachers and administrators about the new information literacies that we believe all students must master to be successful. If we really want this type of focus then we must assess it just like other skills that we believe are necessary, and until then we will continue to take a back seat to other nations that see these types of literacies as key to the future success of their children. The article is an important call to prepare our children for the world they will live in, not the one their teachers grew up in.
Dennis Dempsey, superintendent, High Desert Educational Service District, Redmond, Ore.
I agree that we need to do more with technology in the classroom. The two major issues to overcome are state and federal testing requirements and teacher/ administrator reluctance to give up present teaching strategies. Currently, students are so far ahead of educators on the technology curve that we may never catch up. This is new territory for most of us who are accustomed to being the most knowledgeable person in the classroom. Time constraints will continue to be an issue because to add another "subject" we must either eliminate one or extend the time students spend in school. Continued training of administrators and teachers is a critical element in moving education closer to where we need to be in the 21st century.
Jim Hattabaugh, superintendent, Mansfi eld (Ariz.) School District
Regarding "The New Literacies," one of the key stakeholders in the discussion that seemed to be omitted was the text publishers. Our schools need quality, inexpensive lessons and curriculum that is Web-based and aligned to state content standards.
Joe Langowski, principal, Mansfield Township Elementary School, Columbus, N.J.
The Scarsdale (N.Y.) Public Schools computer teacher captured the essence of new lteracies in stating that the phrase itself is almost a misnomer-that it is nothing new and more like applying new technologies to what we already know.
The shift is not so much about new literacies, but rather a new medium in which students should learn and practice traditional literacies. Traditional literacies such as reading comprehension, discerning fact from opinion and identifying supporting facts and details remain powerful. Increasing student access and time to learn and practice using the Internet and other online information resources is a cost that administrators must confront.
Ric Frataccia, assistant superintendent, Portage Township (Ind.) Schools
Web Site Spotlight
I enjoyed your review of the Madison Metropolitan (Wis.) School District Web site (How Well Does Th is Web Site Work, September). While it's always a little scary putting a product or service "out there" for a very public evaluation, I also believe the benefit of such input otweighs the risk.
Kathy O'Hara, assistant superintendent, Virginia Beach City (Va.) Public Schools
All Sides of ELLs
The Special Report in October, "ELL Testing: A State of Flux", was a wonderful and well-written feature. It presented all sides of the issue and covered all areas of the country.The article was very good. Betty Norton, director of curriculum,
Genoa Central (Ark.) School District
Evolution or Revolution
In response to your Roosevelt vs. Reagan column (Understanding the Times, July), our focus should be on the individual school systems. All successful educators know they must work within the culture of the community of the school system, even when drastic changes are needed. It is the local community that has certain expectations from the school system to fit its needs, and that often clashes with government mandates.
As for your statement, "It's time for change," that's been the general thinking since American education was conceived and first served the white males in this country. Evolution is necessary and inevitable in education; whether it's time for a revolution is more the question.
Sherry Westergard, former superintendent, Brockton (Mont.) Public Schools
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