As you know I have always had an opinion on education and as I was running across some old blogs I came across this AP English blog post. I will not include any of my comments because personally I do not trust this man with the education system (Sorry he likes the word "teaching" instead of education). This blog is explained below and includes his actual letter. Then there are several answers to what he should have done differently. Stay Classy Nappanee/Muncie!
Here is the blog from Miss Stump's Class:
Just for kicks, I’d like to see how you—my first-hour AP English class—can improve this explanatory letter written by Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Dr. Tony Bennett composed this letter to public school superintendents and principals to clarify his rationale for recently proposed legislation that would make it difficult for educators to conduct parent-teacher conferences and professional development within the 180-day school year as they have been able to do in the past. Though my prior statement oversimplifies this issue, the content of this letter is irrelevant (Plus, I am getting fired up thinking about it!). I would like you to complete the following: 1) Point out any conventional errors that you note in Dr. Bennett’s letter and 2) Provide suggestions for improvements that Dr. Bennett could make in regards to syntax and diction.
Based on the writing that all of you have submitted this year, I believe that you will be able to prove ample suggestions for the illustrious Dr. Bennett (who probably pays a staff to proofread his writing).
“Superintendents and Principals,
I would like to provide you with additional information regarding the waiver of instructional day policy that I announced yesterday. I was not as clear as I should have been regarding what is new policy and what is actually compliance with existing state law.
My announcement around the end of the practice of providing waivers for missed instructional days is a new policy that will be implemented next school year. Last week in Washington, I heard President Obama and Secretary Duncan speak passionately about the need for our students to be in school more, and not less, and took their words and the corresponding data that was provided to heart. It was important to me to announce this as soon as I had made a decision as I wanted you to be aware of what the expectations for the coming year.
I did not clearly state the basis for the change in practice about dismissing students for professional development and parent-teacher conferences. Questions around the scope of the Department’s authority in this area were posed to my administration several weeks ago and, consistent with the approach I have taken on many issues that have arisen over the past several months, I directed my legal staff to fully analyze the issue.
Below I have included an excerpt of the legal analysis that resulted, which clearly states that questions around the scope of the Department’s authority in this area were posed to my administration several weeks ago and, consistent with the approach I have taken on many issues that have arisen over the past several months, I directed my legal staff to fully analyze the issue. The Department does not have the right to waive instructional days for non-extraordinary circumstances under the extremely limited scope of waiver authority that is given to the Department under state law.
While I am committed to providing school districts with every reasonable flexibility, I take my responsibility to carry out Indiana’s education laws as given to the Department by the Indiana General Assembly very seriously. Although I value professional development and time for teachers to confer with parents, when this issue was raised and given a comprehensive legal review by Department legal staff and independent experts, the Department had to act within the confines of its legal authority, regardless of past practice.
I understand the challenges of incorporating professional development and parent-teacher conferences into a 180-day model. Success will require creative thinking and solutions. By consulting with superintendents and principals, I know many of you are doing just that today. As with anything else, if we truly believe it is valuable, we will find ways to incorporate it into our schedules.
Again, I apologize for the miscommunication yesterday. We will provide better clarity in the future regarding these types of announcements and issues.
Superintendent of Public Instruction”
First of all, in the second paragraph, a comma should be placed after decision. Also, there needs to be an "are" between 'expectations' and 'for.'
In the fourth paragraph there needs to be a comma after 'below.' Then Mr. Bennet proves he has issues with redundancy by completely repeating a sentence and causing a runon!
In the fifth paragraph there needs to be a comma after 'laws' and before 'very.' Although in that sentence, he repeats 'legal' four times. (REDUNDANT!)
In paragraph six he states that solutions are needed which is kinda a duh statement; amd right after that he should take out the period before 'be' and then change it to lower case.
WOW. I can see your frustration Miss Stump. This guy is kinda idotic.
The first sentence in the 2nd paragraph just doesn't seem right. Reword it. Hmm. Does this guy even know what a comma is??... I don't like how he says around. "questions around" and "announcement around" sounds crappy. Try regarding. Or pertaining. Maybe even involving. But around? I pray this guy was not an English teacher... Maybe Bennett needs to figure out how to not repeat his ideas so much and how to use a stinking period. He could even use a comma! Is his middle name runon?
It also appears that his legal staff is working overtime, or doing the same job twice if you believe Dr. Bennett's descriptive language.
So the question is, how is this guy in charge of anything school related? I can point out major flaws in our esteemed "Superintendent of Public Instruction's" letter, and I'm so juiced up on medicine and painkillers I can't hardly see straight!!
I agree with Ben on the "around" part. I think he needs to check the dictionary, because I'm pretty sure it doesn't mean what he thinks it means. He is missing the the word "in" between the words actually & compliance in the first paragraph. The sentence "...and took their words and the corresponding data that was provided to heart" sounds awkward. He should have replaced it with the phrase "given to me." Like Ben and Elysia said, has this guy ever heard of a comma? I feel out of breath even reading it!
I feel like Mr. Bennett had good intentions with this letter, in that he wanted to further clarify this statement, but I feel that his letter contains too much of an impersonal tone. He just radically changed the format of Indiana's educational laws, and he thinks that sending out a mass e-mail will solve all of the problems? I don't think so. In my opinion, this guy took the easy way out.
So, as far as suggesting things for Mr. Bennett to improve upon, I would have to say that he should have personalized the letter more. It has too much of a distant tone to be a clarification/apology letter. Oh, and use a dictionary or a thesaurus. If you aren't sure about the meaning of a word (like "around"), just look it up, for heaven's sakes.
For starters this sentence appears at the end of the second paragraph. "It was important to me to announce this as soon as I had made a decision as I wanted you to be aware of what the expectations for the coming year." It ends abruptly and seems to need a "were" at the end. That would have put the important verb at the end, and would not have been the best choice had he put it in.
In paragraph three he states that he has legal staff. He'll need them after the Committee of MLA tears him apart for this atrocious letter.
As was said before, his sentences go on, and on, and on. Also, invest in some freakin' scribes that can actually do their job. It's pretty sad that eighteen-year-olds without high school diplomas can do a better job than your hired hands. One more thing: learn to proof read your own letters, it can save some major embarrassment.
Wow.Well, after re-reading this three and a half times, I think I can finally infer what Mr. Bennett was trying to say. As pointed out by everyone elsse, I also noticed the word "around" awkwardly placed here and there. Secondly, we all know repitition is key to persuasion, but an entire senctence, word-for-word? That casts a negative affect on Mr. Bennett's formal address. In the second to last paragraph, Mr. Bennett says, "Success will require creative thinking and solutions. By consulting with superintendents and principals, I know many of you are doing just that today." I don't know exactly what, but something about this phrase just throws me off. You are doing what today? The sentence fluency is completely shot and keeps me tripped up. Miss Stump, I must say I envy your well-educated (and well-paid, I assume) superiors and hope I someday possess the writing skills around those of Mr. Bennett ;)
I'm just saying...I feel as though he said "regard" like fifty-thousand times. Or maybe it really wasn't that dramatic. But it was attacking my eyes. ***CORRECTIONS ARE IN PARENTHESES***
In the first paragraph, it says, " what is actually compliance with existing state law," when it should really say, "what is actually compliant (or: what is actually in compliance) with existing state law."
As everyone else said...around is weird.
Paragraph 2: "It was important to me (I found it important) to announce this as soon as I had made a decision(,seeing) as I wanted you (all) to be aware of what the expectations for the coming year (will be)."
Paragraph 3: "Below I have included an excerpt of the legal analysis that resulted, which clearly states that questions around (? considering) the scope of the Department’s authority in this area were posed to my administration several weeks ago(,) and, consistent with the approach I have taken on many issues that have arisen over the past several months, I directed my legal staff to fully analyze the issue (REALLY ANNOYING RUN-ON). The Department does not have the right to waive instructional days for non-extraordinary circumstances under the extremely limited scope of waiver authority that is given to the Department under state law."
Ending: "Again, I apologize for the miscommunication yesterday. We will provide better clarity in the future regarding(1) these types of announcements and issues.
Regards (2)(SO ANNOYING),
I think the only thing I can say right now is wow.
And also that I agree with Kerry on the impersonal tone of this letter. It could've been written with a much more meaningful tone, as well.
Since everyone has completely shredded this email apart, I do not feel the need to be repetative as Dr. Bennett is so fond of doing. However, after reading Dr. Bennett’s email, I have come to the conclusion that he made an excellent point. Clearly when he was in school, too many of his 180 days were used by parent-teacher conferences and the like, and he never learned how to use correct grammar and sentence structure(and look where that got him). I would have to agree that we need those extra two and a half days to learn how to use commas and periods when necessary as many of my classmates have pointed out his inability to use such things. I am just glad that he realized what a difference those days would make so future Superintendents of Public Instruction will not have to face the embarrassment that Mr. Bennett is sure to be going through. I think that if he would learn to use commas, his writing might be enhanced.
I definitely agree with Claire that everyone has definitely tore this letter apart, and corrections wise there is not a lot else to say. A few bits I did notice however was that Mr. Bennett’s word choice seemed odd. For example the final sentence in paragraph one, “I was not as clear as I should have been regarding what is new policy and what is actually compliance with existing state law,” The “actually compliance” bit definitely needs to be “actually in compliance”. Bennett also used “in practice” several times and felt the need to drill into us how consistent his approach has been over the second month (see the third and fourth paragraph). There are no words for how atrocious the fourth paragraph is… I also HATED the “questions around the scope” his word choice is so limited here! It feels like I’m reading the writing of a middle school student trying to sound professional (also one who wrote their paper the last minute!) Finally, my least favorite (yet most comical) line was that of, “Success will require creative thinking and solutions” its so obvious that success requires solutions, its almost as obvious as when people say, “it was the last place I looked!”
I felt Bennett sounded utterly pathetic. It was almost like he was attempting to drill into school’s that they have no right to be upset with him because, he is “consistent” and he has lawyer’s to back him up. Mr. Bennett’s paper not only demonstrates the ignorance that he possesses, but his actually ideas as well. If I had to give him advice I would deliver the knowledge that drilling people on how legit you think you are makes you sound vain and is also extremely irritating. Not only that, but it is in your best interest to both research what punctuation is and the correct use. Also, a dictionary would be a good investment for your future.
Is it possible that Mr. Bennett feels so strongly towards “180 full days” because he never had an education? Perhaps he should take his luggage elsewhere and stick to watching Sesame Street, which I’m fairly certain offers wonderful knowledge on punctuation.
Miss Stump said...
Well, ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, I'm making use of the infamous comma right now...and I think I will live to tell of it! I appreciate your comments. If nothing else, they make me feel better about my frustration with this letter. I am proud of your ability to identify the conventional errors and to offer syntactical suggestions. Nice job!
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