Virginia's Standards of Learning exams do cause many teachers to focus more on trivia than on critical thinking and creativity, as Patrick Welsh wrote ["Class Focus; It's Not Just Poor Students Who Need Attention," Outlook, Nov. 13]. This should have been the thrust of Mr. Welsh's article. Instead, he emphasized that middle-class "C" students aren't learning anything by being thrown into "regular" classes with lower-income kids.
Students of varying levels do learn and are challenged in non-Advanced Placement courses. The intellectual stimulation of any course is largely determined by the teacher, not by the socioeconomic status of its students. Thus, if we want to ensure that "average" students are challenged, we should do away with mindless standardized tests and hold teachers to the task of bringing critical thinking and creativity to the classroom. This makes much more sense than creating a middle tier of courses for average middle-class students and relegating our minority and lower-income students to stagnant courses, which would serve only to further segregate our school.
The writer is a teacher at T.C. Williams High School.
None of my children attended Virginia public schools, so I may not fully understand Patrick Welsh's point of view. I appreciated the comments on the defects of excessive "teaching to the test," which seems to have affected all public school districts since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act. My son, who teaches in New Jersey, laments this, as do many of my friends. But I fail to see the relationship between class and intelligence.
When Mr. Welsh said that children will not want to be in "houses" with few other middle-class peers, I fear that I missed the point. Is it because the lower-class students are intellectually deficient? Are the lower-class, mostly non-white, students inherently more disruptive? Would the middle-class students be equally uncomfortable if they were grouped with upper-class kids? Does the teacher pay more or less attention to a student depending on the way he or she dresses? Is dress the way one distinguishes lower-class from middle-class students?
FAY D. SLOTNICK