Two batches of letters {Sept. 19 and 26} about the series on McKinley High School by Athelia Knight pointed fingers at peer-pressured youths, harried teachers, inconsistent administrators, uninterested parents and insensitive reporting on the part of The Post.

I'd like to point one more finger -- at the District's "Competency-Based Curriculum." In its drive toward "accountability," the D.C. school system has broken up each level of each subject into hundreds and hundreds of "objectives" to be measured. "Learning" can all too easily become an endless string of mini-lessons and "assessments."

Browsing through one of the current curriculum books can be an intimidating and depressing experience. For instance, the English curriculum for grades 4 to 6 devotes more than 300 pages to a listing of objectives, instructional activities (or "enablers") and assessments in grammar, sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation and spelling. Creative writing is treated in 30 pages; even here the objectives and assessments are sometimes chilling. Take, for instance, Performance Objective #CW-13: "Given a series of written directions, the student will construct written selections using examples of prose, poetry, figurative and literal language. The selections must contain no more than three punctuation errors." Assessment 1 for #CW-12 (concerning a student's ability to "construct an original story"): "Select one of the newspaper titles below. Write a short story from the title. The selection must contain at least fifty, but not more than one hundred words."

This curriculum design reverberates through the classrooms of the D.C. public schools. A fifth-grade teacher once told me, "Oh, we've done similes and metaphors." As it turned out, they had completed the pertinent "enablers" and "assessments" in the curriculum, and the students could tell the difference between similes and metaphors. It had not occurred to the teacher or the students that they might keep alert to figurative language in their own reading or weave some into their own writing (beyond the rigid limits of the assessment). "We really don't have time for that," the teacher told me, pointing to her desk full of fat notebooks. "Look what else we have to cover."

Portions of the Competency-Based Curriculum are being revised this year. The new curriculum, I'm told, will include much more emphasis on writing. This is good news. The District is still committed, however, to the format of objective/enabler/assessment for each aspect of the curriculum.

Of course, great teachers will transcend even the dreariest curriculum, and weak teachers may be unable to implement fully a dynamic curriculum. For most teachers, however, the curriculum intimately affects their approach to teaching. The District tries to package education into a tidy science, but (poetic irony!) scientific research shows us that teaching is, after all, an art.

WENDY ATWOOD Washington The writer teaches at the Washington International School.

The third article {front-page, Sept. 15} in the series "Pursuing the Legacy" contained several errors.

Athelia Knight was incorrect in reporting that Anthony Tucker, on whom the article focused, attended a fall 1986 Saturday SAT review course at the Sidwell Friends School in which "nearly everyone was wearing shirts and ties, and everyone in the classroom was white." We did not offer Saturday SAT review courses in 1986. Furthermore, when Miss Knight phoned the school to confirm that Anthony Tucker had enrolled in this course, she was informed that we had no record of his attendance. We know now that he was not enrolled in any SAT review course at Sidwell Friends last year.

Other black students did participate in the weekday evening SAT review classes. I'm sure that every student was wearing a shirt, but ties are an endangered species on this campus -- they have been virtually extinct from all classrooms for many years.

Anthony Tucker and his McKinley High School teammates, however, have used our gyms on many occasions as participants in our summer basketball league. Twenty-two public and private schools in the greater Washington area play in this league.

Over the years Quaker schools have reached out to a diverse student body. We try to make students and teachers of all backgrounds and beliefs feel welcome and comfortable at Sidwell Friends. I hope that by correcting the errors in this article, I can help to advance understanding and cooperation between public and private schools in the District.

EARL G. HARRISON JR. Headmaster, Sidwell Friends School Washington