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Silber Blasts Ed Schools, Makes Plea For Reform

By Erik M. Weitzman

Stressing a central theme of his gubernatorial candidacy, Boston University President John R. Silber reiterated his call for widespread educational reforms last night at a Dudley House dinner speech.

Speaking before a crowd of more than 200 house members, faculty and college officials, Silber attacked education schools for having a "major role" in the training of what he called an under-qualified pool of teachers.

"[These students] are largely ineducable and yet they plan to be teachers of the next generation," Silber said.

The average composite Scholastic Aptitude Test score of a first year education school student is 846--60 points below the overall first year student average, Silber said.

To improve the quality of teachers in thefuture, Silber called for the reform of teachercertification laws in order to "open the doors toindividuals by virtue of their knowledge andexperience who are qualified to teach--even thoughthey've never been to a school of education."

In his address, Silber chronicled the rise anddecline of educational quality in the Chelseaschool district, describing Chelsea's problems asrepresentative of an overall malaise affecting thenation's education system.

Boston University assumed administrativecontrol over the troubled Chelsea schools lastfall in a move designed to radically improveeducational quality in the district. Proposed bySilber, the project was an unprecedented takeoverof a public school system by a privateinstitution.

At the turn of the century, the Chelseadistrict and its high school in particular "setthe pattern for America," with progressivecurricula and high standards, Silber said. "It wasa specialized and advanced institution--not aremedial one."

But Silber said that in the Chelsea schoolstoday, more than half the students drop out orlack a background in English, and many of thestudents graduate functionally illiterate. Thesefigures reflect what Silber said is a steadydecline nationwide of primary and secondaryschooling that has taken place over the past 50 to60 years.

"At the present time, thousands are handeddiplomas who are not only functionally illiteratebut are also incapable of making a transaction ata five-and-dime store," Silber said.

An expanded school day, increased support forremedial students, a heightened focus on earlyeducation and a commitment to bilingual educationemphasizing English are major tenets of theChelsea reform program, Silber said.

"Chelsea is becoming a model for educationalreform and improvement," said Silber, "A model forMassachusetts, and I think in time for the UnitedStates.

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