David L. Kirp's "The Classroom According to Hunter" (Aug. 12) provocatively critiques clinical instruction, but it misses the genius of the model and its importance for the 1990s. The so-called effective-schools research shows that alone no single variable (time on task, safe and orderly environment, positive reinforcement) has a large effect on student learning. However, when these techniques are used together, student achievement improves dramatically. The significance of clinical instruction for the 1990s is that it can be used to connect the effective-schools research with what actually happens in classrooms.
The genius of clinical instruction is that it can be used by a weak teacher to become adequate and by a good teacher to become great. It can be understood as a list of answers to be applied by the number, or it can be taken as a set of questions that stimulate creative answers. Professor Kirp's notion that "clinical" is a formula approach to teaching low-level skills is especially wide of the mark.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS