To the editor: Richard Whitmire thinks the answer to "turning around" school districts is more "gutsy" leadership, closer relationships with charter schools and pushing students to take more demanding courses. ("Troubled school districts need more than prizes," Op-Ed, Feb. 12)
All this macho talk ignores the big problem: poverty. The rate of child poverty in the U.S. is at an astonishing 25%, the second highest among industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.
There is strong evidence that poverty is the major problem in American education: When researchers control for poverty, our performance on international tests is at the top of the world. Poverty means poor diet, inadequate healthcare and lack of access to books.
The best teaching and strongest exhortations to work hard have little effect when students are hungry and ill and have nothing to read. Let's not worry about "turning around" school districts; instead, let's work on protecting children from the effects of poverty.
Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles
The writer is a professor emeritus of education at USC.
To the editor: I nearly choked on my coffee Friday morning when I read the line, "In the Long Beach Unified School District, I marveled at the success of a community that saw tremendous economic change coming and quickly whipped its schools into shape to deal with that change."
As a teacher in that school district, I remember 2009 very well, but not with the apparent fondness that Whitmire does.
That was the year hundreds of teachers were pink-slipped, when summer school, health and computer tech classes were cut, when our Camp Hi-Hill outdoor school program was suspended, and when I and many teachers each spent hundreds of dollars out of our own pocket so that our students had books to read and tissue to blow their noses.
Teachers, students and staff were "whipped" into shape all right — a whipping from which we have yet to recover.
Andrea Hoover, Long Beach