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May 1, 1999
Vol. 56
No. 8


Support for Channel One

An editor's note about Channel One in the letters department (February 1999) asks, "Do positive benefits offset the impact of commercials in the classroom?" My answer is a resounding yes.
Channel One is what school administrators and classroom teachers make of it. As the assistant principal of a middle school, I previewed the show each morning for eight years, on the lookout for anything we did not want our students to see. I never found anything objectionable, and I soon discovered that I could alert classroom teachers to something in the show that was related to the curriculum.
Channel One's news coverage, investigative reporting, and information bring a school together. When an entire school focuses on an issue, the learning experience becomes powerful, especially when this can happen every day. Many stories on Channel One have a multicultural focus and are presented by a multicultural group of reporters. Even though most U.S. schools are still racially separated, race is not as big a deal to today's students as it is to adults. The lessons about race that Channel One viewers are learning will form the basis for their multicultural understanding in the future of this nation.
—Travis E. Jackson, Suffern, New York
Editor's note: The writer is the author of Channel One's Teaching Tolerance Through Film teachers' guide.

Less Is More

"Realizing the Promise of Standards-Based Education" (March 1999) by Mike Schmoker and Robert J. Marzano is one of the few articles on improving education that make any sense. The phrase "Less is more" sums up the problem.
At age 49, I am a new high school math teacher. In my experiences working in various fields, I have seen a lack of mathematical knowledge. The standards and curriculum that students are supposed to be learning are like jokes with no basis in reality. People think that they are geniuses if they can do a long-division problem; if they can solve a simple equation, they think they should be at college.
Before I could become a teacher, I had to figure out what I thought was important to teach. I worked out that all the mathematics I ever learned reduced to applying the same 10 processes or strategies over and over. The material to be taught was really only an excuse to internalize these strategies. As I teach my students the two new concepts a day necessary to complete the curriculum, I see young people being robbed of their youth and abused by the educational system. The truth of the statement that less is more follows quite obviously.
It is a clever person indeed who can predict what mathematical content will be relevant in 10 years. That mathematics may not even exist today, so we need to focus on what is universal in mathematics, such as the basic operations. By carefully selecting content, we can open the door to any mathematical problem.
—Keith Stephens, Dysart High School, El Mirage, Arizona

Best Uses of Technology

The February 1999 theme, "Integrating Technology into the Curriculum," raises the question of how to achieve that goal. Our school has learned that teachers and students must be comfortable with cooperative learning before technology can have an impact on learning. For optimal effectiveness, computers must be in every classroom, not tucked away in a lab. Because few schools can afford a computer for every student, students must share and therefore be involved in different activities during a class.
Teachers need a period of adjustment, experimentation, and risk taking before they can accept and plan for this environment, which can include learning stations, pairing, classroom demonstrations, or individual research projects. The necessary combination of cooperative learning and technology has advanced our school's goal of motivating students to meet meaningful learning objectives.
—Marc F. Bernstein, Superintendent of Schools, Bellmore-Merrick Central, High School District, North Merrick, New York

No to Block Scheduling

I find it amusing that Thomas L. Shortt and Yvonne V. Thayer, in "Block Scheduling Can Enhance School Climate," and Mark D. DiRocco, in "How an Alternating Day Schedule Empowers Teachers" (December 1998/January 1999), consider block scheduling to be a panacea. In Ontario, Canada, we are moving away from Semestered Courses (four periods a day, 75 minutes a period) because they exceed students' attention spans. We regularly use about 6 minutes at the beginning and the end of class to get settled, which results in about 60 minutes of instruction.
Any schedule will work if it has dedicated teachers who are not subject to the whims of education fads and political trends. Give teachers the tools we need—clean and well-lighted classrooms, books, computers, writing supplies, and, most important, time. Then get out of our way.
—Richard Costello, Waterloo Catholic District, School Board, Kitchener, Ontario

Informing Parents

My supervisor mailed Chris Gustafson's "Phone Home" (October 1998) to me and to my colleagues, who are itinerant teachers of hearing and visually impaired students in rural and urban areas. Often the parents of our students don't know who we are. Phoning home could be a great way to let them know about the services available to their sensory-impaired children.
—Shella K. Brubaker, Southeastern Arizona

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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