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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
04/04/2004

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!



JOANNE YATVIN

Portland, Ore.





Joanne Yatvin


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