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[Susan notes: This is a powerful letter. Suburban parents should take her description of what happens to urban children to heart: You're next.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "Bad School, or Not? Conflicting Ratings Baffle the Parents" (front page, Sept. 5):

You report that many highly regarded schools are being stigmatized as "low-performing."

As a teacher in an urban district, I spend two planning periods every week in meetings analyzing test scores and selecting students to receive extra tutoring instead of music, physical education or computer classes.

We have indeed become more "focused," limiting the education we offer, to concentrate on students' individual weaknesses.

So far, we have avoided the "failing school" label.

But we know that eventually the rising standards will become unreachable, no matter how many music or gym classes our students miss. We also know that the law that imposes these standards will remain unaltered until the wealthier suburban schools start failing, too. I am surprised only at how soon it has happened.

Helping every child requires differentiated instruction and individual goals, not unreachable blanket standards that condemn students, teachers, schools and communities.

Melanie Livingston

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