I read your article in The Boston Globe (Robert Keough, “The School Financing Conundrum,” Ideas, October 3, 2004) this morning, and reviewed the articles you cite from the fall issue of CommonWealth (Symposium: The Hancock Case), as well as Edward Moscovitch’s article that appeared in the summer issue of the magazine (“Passing Judgment“). I am the husband of Judge Margot Botsford, and a lawyer myself.

Obviously, the authors of the articles appearing in the symposium, as well as Dr. Moscovitch, are entitled to their opinions about the Hancock case and the report authored by Judge Botsford. However, it seems to me to be misleading and an example of very poor journalism for your magazine never to mention that two of these authors, Robert Costrell and Edward Moscovitch, actually testified as expert witnesses for the Commonwealth in the Hancock case, and that their testimony and the exhibits they proffered (some of which are reproduced verbatim in their articles) were discussed at some length in the report. This is significant information that your readers are entitled to know.

Stephen Rosenfeld

Public school students are more than
dots on a chart

After reading the Fall 2004 Symposium on educational funding and attending the forum sponsored by CommonWealth and the Rennie Center (“How Much Is Enough?” December 9), I am saddened by the limited purview offered by Robert Costrell (“Wrong answer on school finances“). He compares the funding in school districts that perform at similar proficiency rates on the math and English MCAS tests, then concludes that the district that spent less represents appropriate funding – and that more money is not needed.

It is shocking that education is reduced to an MCAS number in only two subjects. Lower-spending districts may have to eliminate arts programs, after-school activities, physical education and health programs, and even limit the time spent in social studies and science to produce this data. And the lower-spending district may also have a high percentage of dropouts who don’t take the MCAS – and therefore don’t lower the performance level.

Often, higher-spending districts offer full programming in all areas and additional opportunities, such as a full range of Advanced Placement courses, opportunities for career development or community service, intramural sports, and debating teams. Certainly, the citizens and school committees of the higher-spending districts do not think these advantages are wasted money. And a look at the percentage of students who go on to four-year college programs will certainly show it to be very high.

Saddest of all, the state has no way of knowing. The only data the state collects and considers is MCAS data. Educational policy should be based on an understanding that behind the dots on Costrell’s charts are children with a full range of human needs and interests. Educational policy must include assessments, but must not be so limited. That is why more comprehensive information was presented and considered by Judge Botsford in the Hancock case. Such a limited analysis is a disservice to those who struggle to make public schools work for all students.

Mary Ann Hardenbergh
Co-chair, Citizens for Public Schools