Published Online: April 3, 2002
Published in Print: April 3, 2002, as Letters

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Helping Parents Help Toddlers Read

To the Editor:

Kudos to the Parent-Child Home Program of Manhasset, N.Y., and similar preschool initiatives ("Home Visiting Program Helps Toddlers Fill Learning Gaps," March 6, 2002). Studies have long shown the correlation between preschool literacy experiences and success in reading. Children who are exposed to literacy activities prior to entering school are able to acquire increased vocabulary, learn about conventions of print, and develop an understanding of the relationship between oral and written language.

A program such as the one profiled in your story provides at-risk children with opportunities they may not otherwise have. And with program workers acting as models and teaching parents and caregivers, these experiences can continue in the home.

It is my sincere hope that the powers that be will continue to see the big picture and not cut funding for programs such as these.

Colette Foran
Richmond, British Columbia
Canada

Oakland's Charters: A Lesson for Us All

To the Editor:

It was very encouraging to read your article on charter schools and children from low- income families ("California Charters Are Seen to Benefit Children in Poverty," March 13, 2002). As educators, we know that the best way out of poverty is an education that educates the whole person, one in which the student as well as his family can take real ownership of their school through active involvement with the whole school community.

Perhaps the new preliminary data suggesting the success of charter schools in fostering such a process can teach all of us a lesson, whether we represent public, parochial, or charter schools: When all parties concerned take ownership of their school, motivation grows. How many of our public schools fail because administrators expend more energy on the bureaucracy than on the students, thus discouraging the rest of the school community?

Here in Oakland, Calif., Mayor Jerry Brown has taken a particular interest in the Oakland Unified School District, and that interest has caused friction among those involved in the school system bureaucracy. The mayor successfully lobbied Gov. Gray Davis to allow certain charter schools to open, benefiting the city's children who have special needs or find themselves in precarious life situations. Given the horrendous statistics of the shockingly low percentage of African-American males who graduate from high school in Oakland, someone had to step in and do something.

The charter schools seem to be working for special- needs students. Perhaps all schools can learn from their success, and allow parents, teachers, and administrators more of a say in how their schools are run. Taking ownership results in taking responsibility for one's role within the school. Let us hope that this will lead to taking pride in one's accomplishments as well.

John B. Huber
Oakland, Calif.

Teacher Quality Is What Matters Most

To the Editor:

I agree with Lewis C. Solmon and Kimberly Firetag ("The Road to Teacher Quality," Commentary, March 20, 2002). The educational system in America will not improve by implementing yet another program, but by increasing teacher quality in the classroom.

I teach U.S. history at an inner-city school in San Diego. I have taught here for 10 years, virtually all of my teaching career. During that time, I have seen many different "programs" come and go. Only continuing professional development and training have increased student motivation, achievement, and success.

The most important aspect of a high-quality education is the relationship between student and teacher, and we must put all our resources into improving that. We might try, for example, to lower class sizes, provide continuing teacher training, and place educational assistants in all classrooms.

Having recently completed the portfolio process for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, I also can say that, although the process may take me two years to complete, it already has been the best professional- development project I've ever encountered.

More money needs to go toward encouraging, supporting, and rewarding teachers for undertaking this voluntary self-evaluation. It is rigorous, rewarding, challenging, and focused on student success and teacher accountability.

Angie Swartz
Hoover High School
San Diego, Calif.

Vol. 21, Issue 29, Page 44

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