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WHY NOT TEST TEACHER COMPETENCE?

I am dismayed at the reactions of public school teachers to competency testing. The need to improve their "product" is obvious. What worries these teachers, a little accountability?

Not that they're fighting competency testing for their own selfish interests, of course. They are doing this for the children.

"It's not fair, these tests," many of them bleat. "Suppose you've been teaching American history for 15 years, and this test has a lot about European history." Who are the Hapsburgs? What was Napoleon's last name? What does the acronym NATO stand for? And what, by the way, is an acronym? Tough stuff, especially for an education major.

Granted, many teachers do work hard, especially those in private schools where pay is minimal and the product is superior. But if the public education system were a corporation, we, the stockholders (taxpayers), are getting zero return on our investment (property taxes). If a public company has a bad quarter, the stock gets hammered. Two bad quarters, and the CEO gets whacked. Three in a row, and everyone's fired.

Here's how modern education works. When SAT scores plummet, they dumb down the tests, making them a lot easier. If the test scores keep going down, as they are, then they sic the Clinton administration on any college that uses them -- "disparate impact" and all that. President Clinton said he'd be the best friend the teachers' unions ever had. And sure enough, he's given them everything. Except his own kid. Ditto, Vice President Gore.

BRENDAN M. CULLINAN

Clarence

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