(submitted in response to the July 24, 1999 Plain Dealer editorial "Another Tall Order for Glenn")
July 24, 1999
I join your editors in their endorsement of the U. S. Department of Educationfs creation of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (to be chaired by John Glenn) in the July 24 editorial gAnother Tall Order for Glenn.h However, I believe that your editorsf goal for the Glenn Commission is misguided.
The editorial ends by stating, gIf Glennfs group can help persuade instructors to emphasize depth of understanding over breadth of topics, it will be an accomplished commission indeed.h While ginstructorsh or teachers may have some control over how they teach, they cannot choose what they teach. This content is determined by the curriculum which is set by School Boards. With the push towards standardized and proficiency testing in addition to growing numbers of state and national standards, more curricular decisions are being made by legislators and State Departments of Education. As a practical matter, rather than trying to gpersuade instructors,h it would be more effective to persuade administrators, lawmakers, parents, and the voters who elect the Board members and legislators.
Furthermore, this goal is not within the purview of the Glenn Commissionfs mission. According to the Department of Educationfs July 20 press release, Secretary Riley created the Commission to gconsider ways of improving the recruitment, preparation, retention, professional growth and support for mathematics and science teachers in K-12 classrooms nationwide.h The Commission gwill also address the fact that many mathematics and science teachers lack the appropriate licensure and credentials for the subjects they teach.h
Such staffing concerns are again not under the control of individual teachers, but rather administrators who deem it more expedient (and cheaper) to assign gin-househ teachers certified in other areas to gcoverh a class or two out of their area than to go out and recruit or hire additional teachers. The responsibility for the successful implementation of any findings of the Glenn Commission will fall upon all of us, not just the teachers. We, as a community of voters and taxpayers, must ultimately decide how much we are willing to spend to revise state and local curricula as well as train, recruit, pay, retain, and support educational professionals.
Milton Alan Turner