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[Susan notes: In a letter that packs a punch, Joanne Yatvin puts the emphasis where it belonogs--on teaching children.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

According to Marlene Heath, an elementary school teacher, classroom conditions have improved since social promotion was ended in Chicago schools ("A Failure Policy That Succeeds," Op-Ed, March 30).

But have conditions improved for the children left behind?

In the poor rural K-8 school where I was principal for 12 years, we rarely held children back. When we did, it was a carefully considered decision made by teachers, parents, the school counselor and me. We put the child's well-being first, not the comfort of the teacher in the next grade. Whatever we decided, we made a plan for improved instruction and support to help that child do better the next year.

As a result of our policies and everyone's hard work, our eighth-grade reading test scores always showed at least 80 percent of our students reading at grade level.

My advice: Worry more about the individual abilities and needs of your students and less about "sixth-grade-level work." And if you get another little girl in your class who can't read at all, teach her!


Portland, Ore.

Joanne Yatvin

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