The Marc Steiner Show

8/28/07 Linda Perlstein 1pm


Back to school.. never my favorite time of the year.  So, I’m thankful that as students from nursery school to grad school go back to school this time of year, I’m not among them.

That being the case, I wouldn’t have chosen to do what author Linda Perlstein did.  She spent a year immersed in the life of Tyler Heights Elementary School in Annapolis.  Her book, Tested: One American School Struggles To Make The Grade, chronicles the time she spent there.  Its focus is on the effect No Child Left Behind, and the increased focus on standardized testing in education, is having on school administrators, teachers, and most importantly, students.

Public education in the US has changed a lot in just the past few years.  If you have first-hand experience with those changes, as a student, parent, teacher, or through any other perspective, we welcome your thoughts, as always.


Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner

The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.


  1. A great show on a great topic. As I cleaned up from my annual Moms-Only Back-to-School Brunch, I almost dropped the champagne glasses (yes we celebrate with mimosas) when I heard Marc talking about BCRs. My kids are lucky enough to go to a nice public school that is “making the grade” as a school but still is limited by it’s ever-increasing focus on standardized testing. Those kids who are struggling, passing but only just, are all but ignored because “the scores are okay” at our school. So parents arrange help outside of school – tutors, study help, anything to get the help a child needs. Not all kids in our county are so lucky but we all can agree that plenty of kids are very much “left behind.”

  2. First, I was happy to hear Ms. Perlstein mention merit pay, though it was brief and towards the end.

    But not much was mentioned about the teacher’s unions.

    Ms. Perlstein seemed to have a high opinion of public school teachers. High acclaim should be given to any teacher who shows up every day and maintains a positive attitude and remains interested in having every individual student learn. And teachers who succeed at getting their students to learn should be paid more. More than I make.

    But we do ourselves a disservice by acting as if ALL teachers are competent with positive attitudes. Most teachers are wonderful people who deserve the highest status in society. But even if a teacher has good intentions, the low pay and low standards to qualify as a teacher has ensured we get a mixed bag of competent and incompetent teachers.

    Perhaps the strong push towards standardization comes in part from the difficulty of getting rid of bad teachers. Firing a teacher who has done nothing “wrong” is extremely difficult. Because the unions protect the incompetent, “teaching” has been reduced to a standardized process that can be performed by the lowest common denominator. Nobody wants to hold down a good teacher. But nobody wants to let a union protected bad teacher hold back 30 good students. So we standardize, and prevent the good teachers from being creative.

  3. Ms. Pearlstein gets my vote as she has done what so many pronouncers of education reform do not do, spend real time in the classroom. So many big mouths write books and get on talk shows expressing their ideas of how to turn faltering public schools into temples of liberal arts learning. Even those running for City Council or Mayor could easily spend a few months as a long term sub in a city school. Additionally the public dicussion of public education fails to understand that many students are not strong visual or auditory learners. Some 20+ years ago Baltimore city school system removed technical programs, art programs, music programs and physical education programs from their primary and secondary schools. In doing this they returned the school experience to the 19th century, while student in the surrounding counties have a wide and diverse educationl experience. The technical subjects formerally called “industrial arts” were concidered low brow and not noble, the others less important as they are not part of the original 3-rs. In reality these subjects cost more to operate and it is easier to buy chalk and a few computers, basically chaining the student to the desk than having these more vibrant and costly programs.

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