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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Emphasis on Testing Opposed

November 29, 2003

Re "Attacks on School Reform Send Dean, Kerry to Back of the Class," by Ronald Brownstein, Nov. 24: For his misplaced evaluation of Howard Dean's position on educational "accountability," Brownstein, no expert in pedagogy, gets an F. Dean and John Kerry are right to call Bush's education initiative fraudulent. Like every other Bush program, it sounds good and works just the opposite.

"Accountability" a la No Child Left Behind sounds great, until you realize that accountability in the Bush lexicon means nothing less than the dumbing-down of education. There is no evidence that the "standards" enacted by a compliant Congress, under tutelage by that great scholar George W. Bush, have been a factor in true educational improvement. Talk to any teacher today and you will learn that teachers now teach to tests prepared by a faceless bureaucracy rather than the needs of their students. No Child Left Behind makes a mockery of education.

Stupid metrics like those imposed by No Child Left Behind -- a moneyless sham -- can never substitute for the internalized ability to learn new knowledge and the skills that citizenship requires, future workers need and teaching unencumbered by meaningless tests inculcates.

Dean's program for education will restore a different accountability for teachers and students: that teachers will really teach and students will really learn what young Americans need to succeed in life.

Bob Jacobson

San Mateo, Calif.

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Brownstein is wrong about the value of the No Child Left Behind Act. He bashes Dean and Kerry for opposing the law, but the law only promotes cheating. In Houston, the school district has shown improvement on tests by getting rid of students who would perform poorly. That's better education? It has also led to uninspired teaching that only increases the terrible attitude older elementary, middle and high school students already have for education. And with school districts scrambling to keep afloat financially, this law becomes an underfunded mandate from Washington that forces out classes in art and music and sports.

Dean and Kerry are right to oppose the "No Child Left Untested" Act because it is too much stick and hardly any carrot. Testing has its place, but it has become everything. As a parent who has been in the schools and sees what is happening, I support politicians who oppose this bill.

Arlene Williams

Sparks, Nev.

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