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[Susan notes: Too bad the Times won't print letters denouncing the ignorant, knee-jerk, retrograde, corporatized attitude of their Editorial Board toward public education. I'm grateful that these letter writers post opposition but they don't go far enough. They suggest that the editorialist was merely short-sighted, not corrupt.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re テ「廣 Bad Report Cardテ「 (editorial, Feb. 27):

Until society does seven things, and does them well, little will change:

テつカMake teaching a profession that attracts and keeps the most talented of our young adults.

テつカMake schools intellectually stimulating for students and teachers.

テつカTreat teachers with respect and pay them adequately.

テつカGive teachers the continuing support they need.

テつカReduce the ravages of poverty by providing poor families with programs like health care, child care, mental health services and job training.

テつカSupport the development of well-paying jobs that require specialized training rather than a college education.

テつカUse well-designed research rather than bumper-sticker rhetoric to guide decision-making.

Anything less will put us further behind.

Howard Margolis

Voorhees, N.J., Feb. 27, 2007

The writer is professor emeritus of literacy and special education, Queens College, CUNY.


To the Editor:

You point to declining reading and math scores and assume that the problems are a result of inferior teachers. I do not doubt that inferior teachers share some culpability, but teachers are just one part of the equation.

Teenagers generally spend more time with their families than with any one high school teacher, and I have seen students succeed with moderately proficient teachers because the students knew that that teacher cared about them, and they worked harder for this teacher than for other テ「徇ore qualifiedテ「 teachers.

Furthermore, there is a guaranteed avenue for students to take to improve their literacy skills: reading. Too simple for most bureaucrats, school boards and administrators, this activity has benefits beyond the classroom and workplace, and study after study demonstrates its far-reaching effectiveness.

Too many of our students can but do not read regularly.

James Siegel

Portland, Me., Feb. 27, 2007

The writer is a high school teacher.


To the Editor:

Your suggested remedies for educational deficiencies in our 12th graders are characterized as テ「彷ar-reaching structural changes.テ「 They include better standards, higher teacher qualifications and better financing for teacher colleges.

But what if a large part of the problem has nothing to do with teachers? Have you considered distraction and exhaustion?

Here are some trends in todayテ「冱 youth and education when compared with kids of an earlier, higher-achieving age: less discipline in the classroom; more sexual activity with predictable drama; easy availability of street drugs; exploding increases in communications (cellphones, e-mail, chat rooms, YouTube); lack of free time (overscheduled extracurricular activities, too much homework); reduced family time and influence, along with bad parental example (who has time to read?); and tension from religious, cultural, ethnic and racial differences.

Do any of these play a role in reducing performance? Or will you still blame the teachers?

Lon Nesseler

San Diego, Feb. 27, 2007


To the Editor:

I am in full agreement that the state of public education in our country needs to change, and the most recent national report card on literacy and math skills is evidence of this need.

But I am not in full agreement with your suggested solution. You imply that the reason students arenテ「冲 doing well is that teachers are doing a poor job of teaching.

Over all, teachers do the best job they can given the circumstances. This reality is a symptom of a system that has few incentives to bring in the best and the brightest people to prepare our youth.

It has become increasingly difficult to teach because of the growing number of special-needs students in mainstream classes even as class resources are shrinking and class sizes are growing.

It is quite simple: if we want test scores to improve, we need to make class sizes smaller, invest more money in education (including lengthening the school year and student time in class), and provide more resources to teachers to help with increasingly diverse populations of students of various abilities and learning needs.

William Bucknum

Prineville, Ore., Feb. 27, 2007

The writer is a social studies teacher.


To the Editor:

Your editorial about the deplorable lack of reading and math skills among this nationテ「冱 12th graders could not come at a better time.

You decry the テ「徙dious practice of supplying the neediest students with the least qualified teachers.テ「 Usually, the neediest students are in inner-city schools. Most teachers avoid these schools for fear of their own safety.

Why would any teacher want to be in a dangerous environment?

Parents and students bear some responsibility for scaring away some of the best qualified and caring teachers.

Jennifer Bommentre

Minneapolis, Feb. 27, 2007

multiple authors

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