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TEST OR NOT
Score" (Winter 2001): The Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators'
Association (MSSAA), which represents 1,100 high school and junior
high school administrators, has registered its opposition to passage
of a single test being mandatory for high school graduation.
The MCAS tests are being used in ways never intended. In wealthier
communities, the opportunity to claim the highest scores affects
real estate values. In poorer communities, the results are being
used to claim additional funds from the state budget. In every community,
students are being made aware that their performance will affect
adults and feel pressured to perform in ways never intended by the
BARRY CAHILL '69
Editor's note: Mr. Cahill is president of the MSSAA and principal
of Ipswich High School.
From one who is both a college professor and the mother of two children
who were in a Delaware public school when statewide testing was
implemented: Before testing, my children's school had many teachers
and administrators who were more interested in their working conditions
than in teaching. That changed dramatically after testing was implemented.
Yes, they teach to the test; yes, there are serious problems with
the tests; yes, it wouldn't be surprising if there is juggling of
the results. But the bottom line is that now student performance
matters to the whole school, not just to a few lonely, dedicated
The reading comprehension of many of my college students is so low
they cannot understand their textbooks, and their writing is worse
than our non-English-speaking foreign students'. Yet they graduated
from high school with good grades.
I applaud the courage of Massachusetts state officials in insisting
STACIE E. BECK '79
Similar to Jerome Groopman, M.D. ("Medicine and Mystery," Winter
2001), I am both a medical oncologist, caring for patients with
cancer, and a believer. The sad reality is that, despite recent
advances, most of the patients whom I care for will ultimately die
of their disease. My role is not only to bring to bear all the scientific
expertise I can to control their disease for as long as possible,
but also, when death is inevitable, to work equally hard to minimize
physical and emotional suffering.
Few medical schools or postgraduate training programs incorporate
sessions devoted to the issue of spirituality in their formal curricula.
How we deal with this issue evolves as a function of our own beliefs,
attitudes, and level of comfort. For some physicians, there appears
to be a belief that this is not in our job description. I disagree.
Part of my willingness to acknowledge my patients' concerns about
faith is probably due to the unobtrusive and skilled manner in which
these issues have been dealt with at my institution, St. Elizabeth's
Hospital, by the pastoral care department. Whatever an individual's
background or beliefs, there is an acknowledgment that this is an
appropriate topic to be explored if the patient so desires.
PAUL J. HESKETH, M.D., '74
I had the honor of studying with Francis Sweeney, SJ ("Bard
Watching," Winter 2001), during my undergraduate years from
1981 to 1983, when I was about the only long-haired man at BC. His
article on T. S. Eliot exemplified many of the techniques I recall
from his classes: sensual detail, brevity without sacrifice of texture
and meter, strong verbs, and respect for the reader.
PETER N. DUNN '83
Thank you for Charlotte Bruce Harvey's essay on James Skehan, SJ
("Grounded," Winter 2001). I remember facing a very skeptical Fr.
Jim on a cold and windy day in November 1967. I was applying for
BC's Master of Science in Teaching program. He was very unimpressed
with my undergraduate record, but I was accepted. I took a job with
the Forest Service and had a wonderful career as a mining geologist.
I am retired now and am teaching earth science and geology at a
nearby high school--and I still feel I am his student.
ROBERT H. OLDFIELD, MTS '73
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