July 3, 1998

Boston Globe

To The Editor:

With respect to the issue of what qualities we need to check for in prospective teachers, and the utility of the new state teachers exam in helping us discern those qualities, a quotation from a Henry D. Thoreau, himself a former public school teacher, is relevant. Of another great American, Thoreau wrote: "He would have left a Greek accent slanting the wrong way and righted up a falling man."

Shame on those who think that this idiotic, imperfect exam is  reliable as the sole assessment in separating good teachers from bad, whether among those who flunked or among those who passed or between them. If this kind of test sets the standard, we're in big trouble. Those charged with saving public education clearly haven't got a clue about what makes for effective classroom teachers. Facts are stubborn things. Eventually--hopefully soon--the testing fever will break, and we can move on from defining pronouns and the quick fix.

As for the few points that separated the lowered passed grade from the new "more rigorous" one, they provided a far more significant measurement of political demagoguery than of teacher candidate competence.

Bill Schechter
History Dept.
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional HS

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