To the editors:
After reading the article entitled, “Progress Report: How One School in Uptown Has Fared Under School Reform” [November 8], I am compelled to respond to several points made by its author Ms. Florence Hamlish Levinsohn. I will admit Ms. Levinsohn spent several hours interviewing two council members, a teacher representative on the council, and myself. However, she did not spend any real time observing teachers teach nor did she attend a council meeting. It is my feeling that she did not get a real feel for the school and see all the excellent things the teachers and students are doing.
I can live with the writer’s description of me (short and balding), but I take issue with her statement that I agree (in any way) with the statement that the teachers are not teaching. While there may be a few cases where staff is not performing as expected, the vast majority of teachers and staff are doing an exceptional job especially when one takes into consideration the circumstances and uncertainties in which they find themselves. Ms. Levinsohn failed to note that the I.G.A.P. (Illinois Goal Assessment Program) scores for Stockton’s third grade students were improved over last year’s scores. In the area of Language Arts the scores went from 167 to 233, a significant increase. Student attendance rose almost one percentage point to 92.2, well above the city average.
Stockton has over 15 percent of students living outside the school’s attendance area. These permissive transfer and option program students’ parents choose to have them attend Stockton. Certainly the school, its staff, and programs must have some merit if this number of parents choose Stockton over their neighborhood schools. Ms. Levinsohn failed to mention this fact in her article.
I wish that Ms. Levinsohn had interviewed some parents. Her story is imbalanced and slanted in favor of the miracles of the LSC. It also underlines controversy and conflict and does not point up a lot of the good things that have occurred because of the work of staff and council.
The article has several inaccuracies such as the funding source for the career service personnel and the number of aides hired after the council was put in place. I also question the author’s sensitivity in using the word “dumb” in describing classes containing students who are below level in reading and mathematics.
In conclusion, I did not throw up my hands and state there is nothing we can do. Factors such as the amount of reading taking place at home, student mobility, native language are givens with which most teachers must work. It is the staff working together with the LSC that has intiated and will continue programs to meet the needs of Stockton students. Many of the ideas for some of the programs implemented at Stockton came from the staff (believe it or not the principal) e.g., the teacher/advocate program, health aide, the mixing of third grade and inclusion in the reading/writing lab.
My advice to Ms. Levinsohn, check your facts, lady, and get the story straight.
Principal, Stockton Elementary
Florence Hamlish Levinsohn replies:
I am a little befuddled by Dr. Lieberman’s letter. While I did not include some of the facts he recites, I thought I conveyed a picture of an admirable school, with a dedicated principal and a cooperative relationship between staff and the LSC. It was not my purpose to describe the school in all its detail, but rather to show the progress, conflict, and failures that resulted from school reform.
While some of the new programs implemented in the last two years may have been suggested by staff, it was clear to me from my interviews, including nearly two hours spent with Lieberman, that the institution of these new programs was a direct result of the work of the LSC and the money made available to the school by the School Reform Act.