* I am a resident of Granada Hills and the father of three preschoolers. My wife and I are trying to decide whether to trust the education of our children to the L.A. city schools, or to try to save enough to pay for private schools or move to another school district. I was therefore very interested in "Hard Times" (Sept. 19) about the Northridge Middle School.
I was really appalled. In the educational mission of the school, "building self-esteem" takes precedence over learning. This might be acceptable, but the administrators believe that self-esteem is generated by never challenging the students intellectually or physically. If you don't challenge the students, they will never fail, and thus they will feel great about themselves, right?
At Northridge Middle School, students are rewarded with high grades just for showing up. How can a student gain self-esteem from a grade of A or B, when high grades are given to everyone? In the future, these students will enter the job market. Will employers be looking for graduates who are comfortable with themselves because no one has ever forced them to work very hard? Or would an employer rather have a graduate with self-discipline who has learned to read, write and compute?
The administrators of Northridge Middle School, by protecting students from failure now, are setting them up for more significant and damaging failure in the future. How long will the artificial "self-esteem" of the Northridge students last when they fail to find jobs, or find that they lack the basic skills to succeed in the workplace? I think it is tragic that the Northridge students will be so unprepared for adulthood. For my family, I think it is time to start saving up for private school.
KENNETH J. FRIER
* After reading the Northridge article, I feel like not just a taxpayer, but an active member of a conspiracy to scam those students out of a future. It seems my tax dollars support nothing more than day care with grades. How deceitful to allow kids to think they can make it, just because they have a pulse. Common sense says that school must provide the tools to succeed and accomplish--only then will true self-esteem follow. Your article captured the essence of why Proposition 174 (school vouchers) must be passed!
STEPHEN R. ASHLA
* The article about Northridge Middle School was beyond all comprehension. The behavior of the students at the assembly was inexcusable. Students evidently were not taught anything about respect (of course it is a two-way street). As adults, if we do not teach them respect and responsibility, we have lost the ballgame.
My current school is in a difficult neighborhood. Sun Valley Middle School has 2,000 students of which 1,200 are limited English proficient (LEP) students. The kids know that when we have an assembly, and we have many, inappropriate behavior is wrong and is not allowed.
I invite anyone to come to Sun Valley Middle School at any time of the day, unannounced. We have a minimum of gang activity, the school is graffiti-free, the campus is clean and the reason for this is that students are taught self-respect and what follows is respect for others.
We have an outstanding teaching staff and they are concerned about the instructional program and how to "reach" kids. Sure, we have problems, but they are not insurmountable.
DON RYAN, Assistant Principal
Sun Valley Middle School
* Re "Learning the Old-Fashioned Way," editorial, Sept. 23:
School reform succeeds when two essential objectives are met: 1) The teachers and principal collaborate to embrace the principles of the reform plan, and 2) the entire faculty is thoroughly trained in implementing the change into their own individual teaching styles. These objectives are only accomplished when the school principal supports the belief that not all students and teachers learn and teach in the same way.
Reform in LAUSD, whether by school-based management or the LEARN plan, has not been designed to reflect solely the school principal's vision. Also, any plan for school reform can't count on being highly successful if utilized in bits and pieces.
It appears that the principal of Northridge Middle School, Beryl Ward, has not adopted all of the basic tenets of school reform mentioned above. However, through my own investigation I have found that the level of positive student involvement and interest at Northridge is far higher than your article would lead readers to believe.
The voters are soon going to make a decision that will have an effect on the future of public education forever. I would hate to think that the fate of hundreds of thousands of children in our city might be influenced by an unfair and unbalanced portrayal of one LAUSD school.
HELEN BERNSTEIN, President
United Teachers-Los Angeles