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Test Scores and Teaching

November 03, 1987

I am one of the educators who has strived religiously for the past four years to implement state Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig's reforms in the public schools. As a language arts specialist, I have touted change like a "medicine woman" to teachers who can't buy because it would mean undergoing painful growth and change--an unwelcome act, considering the overcrowded and underpaid conditions under which most teachers work.

Why is it that when change does not occur overnight, the changes come under fire rather than the status quo that refuses to allow the change? Here is the bottom line on Honig's reforms in language arts: Until now in California public schools writing as a process has never been taught; reading has meant "The Basal Reader" rather than great works of literature; higher-level thinking has been relatively non-existent in the classroom because it's easier for teachers to tell students to read the chapter and answer the questions at the end; listening has meant the absence of noise, and speaking is what students are never supposed to do. Honig knows that language arts (purposeful writing, reading, thinking, listening and speaking), is quality human communication--not some score on a standardized test.

I am as mad as hell now, reading the article "Inner-City High Schools Failing Despite Honig Claims, Study Finds" (Part I, Oct. 25). No wonder Honig reacted angrily to the accusations that his reforms are not working! Why doesn't Gov. George Deukmejian visit classrooms, compare the curriculum to the quality criterion outlined by the reforms, and see for himself how many teachers are actually using Honig's educational models--The Model Curriculum Standards and Guides and the Language Arts Framework. That investigation might shed more light on the problem than the test scores.

How can Honig's reforms succeed if we don't have enough money to instruct teachers on how to implement them? The state tax rebate that we will receive, thanks to our illustrious governor, could have helped schools undertake the monumental task of changing public education. But because of the governor's political battle with Honig, every staff development we had in our district had to be cut.

The California Education Reform Act of 1983 is the most relevant act to touch the hearts and minds of public education in the 24 years that I have been a teacher. Honig knows the connection between education and life.

JAN JESSE

Montebello Unified School District

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