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Why the 'children first' mentality is making teachers quit

To the editor: Kristina Rizga writes about the wisdom of Mission High School in San Francisco giving its teachers time to plan for and reflect on student achievement. She noticed, “As teacher morale and retention rates went up, student achievement rates did too.” Is this really surprising? ("Why so many teachers quit, and how to fix that," Op-Ed, Aug. 23)

There is a reason the airline safety videos instruct parents to affix their own oxygen masks before they help their children. A teacher's oxygen mask is composed of adequate time to plan, read, grade, think and reflect; enough money to live decently; and the respect a well-educated professional deserves.

Instead, bureaucrats put “children first,” as if the teachers have nothing to do with their success, and then hold teachers accountable for everything, whether within their scope of influence or not.

Give teachers the oxygen they need and everyone will breathe easier.

Pam Felcher, West Hollywood

The writer is the boys' division English department chairwoman at Yeshiva University High Schools of Los Angeles.

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To the editor: I spent 35 years in the classroom. I was treated as a professional and allowed to plan my teaching strategies each year to suit the needs of that year's class. This required creativity, and it gave me great satisfaction to see my efforts succeed.

Then No Child Left Behind was thrust upon us. Suddenly I was transformed into a puppet. My creative powers were forced into hiatus. All that mattered were test results. Who cared if we were expected to teach to the test?

That's what drove me into early retirement. If you take away the sense of satisfaction, you lose the teacher.

David B. Housh, Glendora

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To the editor: Rizga does not mention class size as a factor in teacher turnover.

For 39 years I was a social studies teacher in the L.A. Unified School District, teaching five classes a day (and for 12 of those years, six classes a day until I suffered my first heart attack), often with up to 42 students in a class. Every time I gave a homework assignment, quiz, test or essay, it meant I had to grade more than 200 papers.

If you think a teacher's conference period is enough time to grade all those papers, contact parents, prepare materials and develop meaningful lesson plans, I've got a bridge in San Pedro to sell you — and pictures of me grading papers not only at my kitchen table but also in Palm Springs, Rosarito and various other vacation spots to show you.

Smaller classes and giving teachers two conference periods would go a long way toward improving retention. Of course, that would mean not only finding the money but also the classroom space and teachers. Good luck.

Lou Cohan, Cypress

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