Don’t take teacher findings as undeniable truths

To the editor:

In his April 29 essay, state schools Superintendent James W. Guthrie summarizes several findings regarding teacher effectiveness. A more detailed review concerning most of Mr. Guthrie’s 12 statements can be found at the Center for Public Education’s website.

Mr. Guthrie seems to be presenting all 12 of the statements as undeniable truths. Although the data gathered by researchers may indeed be “empirically verified things,” this does not guarantee that the conclusions reached are necessarily trustworthy. In any scientific study, predictions generated from a hypothesis may have been poorly conceived. Alternative hypotheses may have been overlooked. The researchers may have over-generalized their conclusions. There may have been errors in the applications of various statistical methods.

The peer-review system is meant to minimize these possibilities, but it does not eliminate them. Anyone trained in science who has had the occasion to peruse journals of education research will tell you the quality is mixed, at best.

More importantly, the “absence of evidence” is not the “evidence of absence.” Mr. Guthrie’s eighth and 11th paragraphs are about a lack of statistically significant effects of teachers’ educational backgrounds on student achievement. Unless a statistical power analysis was conducted with very large sample sizes, negative findings are not really meaningful in scientific studies.

Finally, I feel that one finding should be added to Mr. Guthrie’s list. According to Goldhaber and Brewer (1996, cited at the Center for Public Education’s website), “an advanced degree specific to the subject area that a teacher teaches is associated with higher achievement.” Considering that most of Mr. Guthrie’s essay is essentially an outline of the Center’s review, I find it strange that this conclusion was not worthy of his attention.

WILLIAM R. FOUTS

LAS VEGAS

Voter ID laws

To the editor:

I found Roland Martin’s screed accusing the GOP of suppressing voter turnout to be just another example of liberals emulating Chicken Little whenever an issue goes the other way on them (“GOP voter suppression is real,” Wednesday commentary). But just for arguments sake, let’s assume Mr. Martin’s accusations have merit.

So who are these voters being denied the right to vote because they can’t acquire a picture ID, even if it’s given to them in their own home for free?

Well, it would be someone who never cashed a check; never rented a car; never boarded a plane or train; never used health insurance, either public or private; never purchased alcohol; never used a credit card; never bought tobacco products; never gambled or won a jackpot; never paid for purchases at a grocery store with a check, etc., etc., etc.

Whenever the seven people left in the country who do none of the above are identified, I’ll personally drive them to the polls.

I do admit that providing a valid ID will make it much more difficult for the dead to continue to vote in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, to name a few dead-friendly cities. Another downfall will be the elimination of serial voters, who will now be restricted to only the precincts for which they have valid picture ID. Darn!

Finally, as to the new Florida early voting laws, voters have 10 days to cast a ballot before every election. If you can’t find time to cast your ballot before church on Sunday, maybe it wasn’t that important to you to start with. Blaming personal sloth on the GOP is really aiming awfully low, Mr. Martin.

It seems that Mr. Martin wants to portray Republicans as thugs who hang outside polling places carrying weapons and actively intimidating voters. Oh, I’m sorry, that wasn’t the GOP, it was the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, a stalwart member of the Democrat Party coalition. Pull the billy club out of your own eye, Mr. Martin, before trying to pluck the hanging chad from mine.

Mark Morris

Las Vegas

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