Published Online: September 17, 2003
Published in Print: September 17, 2003, as Letters



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L.A. Schools Comments Paint a False Portrait

To the Editor:

I must take exception to some of the statements about the Los Angeles Unified School District in the Commentary by William G. Ouchi ("Making Schools Work," Sept. 3, 2003.) While he starts out strongly critical of our district in relationship to National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, he is using statewide numbers to press his point, not LAUSD numbers.

His second paragraph is simply wrong when he states that fewer than 20 percent of our students score at the proficient level in English language arts and only one in five do so in math. We are above the 20th percent proficient level in every grade except for middle schools, and those scores are also starting to move up. Our math scores are as high as 45 percent on the California Standards Tests. In the past three years, our Academic Performance Index, or API, growth rate is doubling that of the state.

Mr. Ouchi criticizes us for using centralized curriculum and instructional guides in core areas, but this is exactly what is bringing up scores and helping our students achieve academically. We do create a matrix between centralized academic rigor and strong professional development while encouraging local input as well. This is accomplished through our 11 local districts working closely with their individual schools.

We are a district that has had to cut almost $1 billion in the past 18 months due to the severe crisis in the California economy. We look forward to the day we can start to return more money to the schools to supplement our standardized programs with the flexibility they deserve to add individualized programs geared to their student bodies.

We must not forget that the crisis in public education is a nationwide problem in our urban centers, and we here in Los Angeles are making some very bold moves to break through the barriers.

Roy Romer
Los Angeles Unified School District
Los Angeles, Calif.

Former Student Recalls Tornillo's Better Side

To the Editor:

One point of clarification regarding your article "Miami Union Leader Pleads Guilty to Fraud" (Sept. 3, 2003): Pat L. Tornillo Jr. was also an English teacher, not just a social studies teacher, as was reported.

Mr. Tornillo was my 8th grade English teacher during the school year 1961-62 at Carol City Junior High School in northwest Dade County. Our class met before the regular school day began, so that we band and orchestra students could have an extra fine-arts period in our academic schedule. My lifelong enjoyment of poetry, especially that of Carl Sandburg, all stems from the brilliant instruction of Mr. Tornillo.

Pat Tornillo's fiscal irresponsibility is not acceptable. I am saddened that his successful career as a classroom teacher is now overshadowed by his deceitful behavior. It is a shame he could not be like the fog that sits "on silent haunches and then moves on."

Kenneth D. Kappel
U.S. Grant Career Center
Bethel, Ohio

Gay Students Find 'No Commitment to Civility'

To the Editor:

In reference to your article "Expansion of N.Y.C. School Ignites Debate Over Gay Students' Needs" (Sept. 3, 2003):

The debate comes down to asking whether it is better for gay students to remain in the general school population or to segregate themselves in a separate school? Generally, I would agree with George Washington University Professor of Law Jonathan Turley, quoted in your article, and argue for gay students to work out their situation in the general school population. Yet I disagree with Mr. Turley because the reality is we deal with a school culture that really has no commitment to civility, particularly to gay students.

The gay population is still not accepted by out-of-school society. Children in school more than parrot that culture. As a middle school teacher, I found that discussing the issue brought on harassment to children perceived as gay, whether they were or not.

It has never been considered a serious offense to harass children who are gay or thought of as gay. When there is a real commitment that this kind of harassment is not acceptable and is morally bankrupt, then I will enthusiastically go along with Mr. Turley.

Elliot Kotler
Ossining, N.Y.

A Typo That Elucidates The Ethics of Parking

To the Editor:

In your Take Note item on Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, you report, in what undoubtedly is a typographical error, that the school has an "ethically diverse student body" ("Marking Territory," Sept. 3, 2003).

One does wonder about the ethics of allowing students with the most money to buy the privilege of a private parking space. Why not encourage scholarship by assigning parking spaces to seniors with the best academic record, or, this being Texas, to seniors who make first string on the football team?

Paul Abramson
Intelligence for Education Inc.
Larchmont, N.Y.

'Adequate Yearly Progress'

To the Editor:

The enormous difficulty and expense of constructing assessment controls for the multiple variables involved in clearly measuring "adequate yearly progress" will continue to muddy the No Child Left Behind Act waters for some time to come ("State Reports on Progress Vary Widely," Sept. 3, 2003). Variability between states regarding quantifications of progress, as well as variability of interpretations of progress between school districts within each state and, indeed, within each large school district will fuel disputation and disappointment.

School people must sustain local perspectives and frames of reference in order to ensure that the standards movement serves to prompt individual student progress through individual school careers. Disaggregated groups' performance data must be used to make curriculum and instruction decisions based on solid, replicated research—not on untested practices based on ideology or comforting conventions.

The cognitive sciences offer a sound foundation for effective teaching and learning. The most grievous weakness crippling public education is that our teachers and administrators are not taught or required to learn and practice such research-based pedagogy. Until the applied techniques derived from the cognitive sciences infuse public education at each school level, the waters will not clear.

John Burruto
Amherst, Mass.

To the Editor:

The No Child Left Behind law requires that we measure the yearly progress of students. However, I have yet to hear anyone comment on the way scores are compared. In Georgia, we compare the scores of this year's 7th graders with the scores of last year's 7th graders. This does not show progress for those students. It's like comparing apples to oranges.

To be fair to the students, and accurate in what we are trying to report, we must change the formula so that we are tracking the progress of the students, not the grade level. Does anyone else see this problem?

Susan Wuori
Johnson High School
Savannah, Ga.

To the Editor:

Having been involved routinely for 37 years in the development and application of educational assessment and evaluation strategies should count for something, but I'm not sure it does. The same old issue keeps rearing its ugly head: misalignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. I've referred to it as the "CIA paradigm," as it always results in covert rather than overt educational change.

The "overt" change process requires a meeting of the minds among teachers, administrators, specialists, and key stakeholders that is far too expensive and time-consuming for most entities (local, state, or federal) to bring about. However, far more money and time are wasted (at all levels) because this process is not done right. The problem (as well as the opportunity) stems from the fact that everyone feels they know what should be done to fix public education, and, as a result, common ground is seldom found.

I eagerly await the opportunity to join in on a real and lasting educational change process that solves the "CIA paradigm" in education.

N. Noggle
Chandler, Ariz.

To the Editor:

The purpose of assessment is to improve, not threaten and intimidate. I am concerned that the people furthest from our children and the classroom are making monumental decisions without "feeling the pulse." We must not forget that we are molding children at delicate stages of their lives, and that there is much more to education than testing.

Our society requires more and more of educators, and we are highly trained to help children grow and succeed. Let us not become so statistical that we forget the challenges that we meet every day. There are faces behind the numbers.

Robert Myers
North Hagerstown High School
Hagerstown, Md.

To the Editor:

How can the federal government allow each state to determine its own guidelines for measuring "adequate yearly progress"? Won't states just manipulate the data to suit their purposes? With this system, AYP will vary by student and by state. Right?

Steve Stewart
Good Hope Elementary School
Perris, Calif.

Vol. 23, Issue 3, Page 34

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