Glorifying the Good Old Days
Excuse me, but did John Abbott actually attempt to romanticize the preindustrial days in “Children Need Communities, Communities Need Children” (Connecting with the Community and the World of Work, May 1995)?
My 94-year-old grandmother would tell him that she would have given anything to be a teacher. Instead she was sent to America to live with relatives and forced to work in a dairy store making cheeses and churning butter. Granted she missed the preindustrial age, but she, like those other young people, did not have a choice but to dedicate her life to the labor force. Yes, they felt “connected,” but they also felt enslaved by their social class and the status quo.
—Lisa C. Schonberger, Penn State University, Monroeville, Pennsylvania
Does Brain-Based Learning Really Work?
I was pleased to read that Dry Creek School has been so successful in incorporating brain-based learning into classrooms (“Reinventing Schools through Brain-Based Learning,” April 1995). I was a special ed teacher at Dry Creek when the Caines pioneered this project and know how instrumental they were in building the staff's willingness to implement innovation in instruction.
I am concerned, however, at the failure of the authors to publish any quantitative or qualitative data to support their claim that their theory “works with average teachers and children.” The assertion that the academic strides of special education students are “particularly impressive” is completely without foundation. Special education encompasses many populations—including the mildly and severely disabled. On what criteria is the evaluation of academic strides based? Standardized test scores? Curriculum-based measurements? Fulfillment of IEP objectives? Are there longitudinal data to show how well students do beyond grade school?
Educators must be cautious of implementing change without supporting research. Richard A. Gibboney (Educational Leadership, February 1987, p. 47) noted that Madeline Hunter “had not produced research evidence to support her claim for improved learning,” yet her methods were adopted in schools. Eventually, the claims of success proved less than expected.
Methods that do not lend themselves well to quantitative analysis, such as aspects of brain-based research, should be measured by strict qualitative standards before any claim can be made that they “work.”
—Barbara Glaeser, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas
Watch What You Measure
In “Results: The Key to Renewal,” Schmoker and Wilson asked for more frequent measurement of the success of education reform (Self-Renewing Schools, April 1995). They, however, fail to discuss the importance of aligning the evaluation instrument with the school's instructional goals. Using the wrong instrument to measure progress—for example, a multiple-choice test to assess improvements in problem solving—would be less useful than not measuring at all.
Complex reforms should not be doomed to dismissal without a fair trial and long-term measurement. Much research shows that teachers need follow-up assistance to maintain a reform and to overcome the appeal of more familiar approaches. Sustained results are what we should be measuring.
—Thomas E. Rowan, Project IMPACT, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland