Editorial: Leader of the band

By The Times/Ledger

In Queens Village, this is the day the music died. For more than 20 years, generations of children marched to the beat of the Queens Village Youth Marching Band. Sadly, this band, which has won a place in the heart of southeast Queens, is now only a memory.

The leader of the band is tired. At 73, Harvey Moder, a former firefighter and science teacher, has put down the baton. Moder founded the organization when he came to realize that there were not enough marching bands in all of Queens. In fact, he said he went to one parade and found children marching to the beat of bongos. Little did Mr. Moder know at that time how much his band would mean to so many children and their families.

Starting with humble beginnings in the Queens Village Memorial Day Parade, Moder's kids would go on to play in New York's biggest parades: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, St. Patrick's Day and Columbus Day. The band even performed at rallies at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The humble marching band reflected the marvelous diversity of Queens Village community with children from every ethnic and national background.

In part, Moder said he has folded the band because he no longer had the support he needs from other adults. Parents, he said, are more than happy to let their children play in his band, but few had the time to help with all of the details of organizing the band. Considering that they have been marching in as many as 70 parades a years, this had to be a monumental task.

It would be nice to think that there is someone waiting in the wings to take the baton from Harvey Moder, but people like him are hard to find. Mr. Moder should take pride in a job well done. He is a Yankee Doodle Dandy if ever there was one.

When teachers cheat

Four schools in Queens have been accused of helping students to cheat on citywide reading and math tests. If these accusations are substantiated, the Board of Education will have little choice but to fire the teachers, aides and administrators allegedly involved.

Fortunately, the headlines may have exaggerated the problem. In Districts 27 and 28, only two teachers are alleged to have crossed the line in helping students taking the test. There is no suggestion that the principals or anyone else in a supervisory position knew that the coaching was taking place.

The thought of any teacher cheating is disturbing. Parents can take some comfort in the knowledge that the cheating was not widespread, at least not in southeast Queens. In the near future, the Board of Ed will have to hold a hearing on the conduct of these teachers. If it turns out that they cheated, Chancellor Rudy Crew will have little choice but to fire them.

But when the dust settles, the Board of Ed must also question whether too much emphasis has been placed on test scores and too little on education. In some classes, teachers have spent weeks, even months, preparing students for the standardized tests. Teachers complain the tests are pushing them to set aside other educational goals.

Citywide and statewide tests do serve a purpose. But the value of a teacher should never be measured by test results alone. The best teachers are those who can excite the imagination and impart a love of learning and a sense of potential and self-worth.

The current system rewards those teachers who sacrificed real learning for non-stop test preparation. That's not cheating. But it's also not education.

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