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Turning LAUSD Around

You addressed the importance of principals and teachers in your vision for the Los Angeles schools (editorial, Feb. 23). You failed to address the importance of students and their parents. On Feb. 18 the story in The Times was whether non-English-speaking students should be tested in English and their scores included in the grand average. As long as even such moronic questions cannot be addressed in a rational and apolitical fashion, all the talk about “a vision” is disingenuous.

What I find most peculiar is the expectation (and the correlated search for scapegoats) by many that student scores can improve on a quarterly basis, when the underlying problems require serious and long-term attention. Your vision for L.A. schools would benefit from taking your corporate blinders off. Whether you like it or not, your vision will be implemented by the teachers, who do have the best interest of students at heart.

D.A. PAPANASTASSIOU, Pasadena

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Adopting a phonics-based reading program is not the key to raising test scores (“Schools Chief Vows to Raise Test Scores,” Feb. 20). Most beginning literacy programs already do plenty of phonics. The way to raise test scores is to continue to improve our libraries. Research shows a direct connection between access to books and reading test scores and clearly indicates that California came in last in the country in reading because it offers children the poorest access to books.

In the average elementary school in the U.S., there are 18 books per child. In California, there are 13 books per child, the worst in the country. In school libraries in Los Angeles Unified School District there are only five books per child! Our public libraries cannot bail us out: California’s public libraries rank in the bottom seven of the country, and library budgets have been cut 25% since 1989, with children’s collections being hit the hardest.

The L.A. board has begun the effort to improve this situation. It should remain our top priority. Claiming that the answer is more phonics is like claiming that starvation should be cured by vitamin pills.

STEPHEN KRASHEN, USC School of Education

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It quite simply defies all logic that the state mandate all students be tested in English even though they speak not a word of it. Surely one would be puzzled and even angered if given a test in Japanese when one is not the least bit fluent in that language. Other than crushing the self-esteem of a child by forcing him to take a test that will not be understood, the result of the test will prove absolutely nothing.

State law already requires a separate test of English ability for all students entering the state with a language other than English. If the state, in all its wisdom, desires to know the English proficiency of students, it should just resort to a little bit of communication and obtain the information that is already available, from the individual school districts.

SAM CHAIDEZ, President, Assn. of Mexican American Educators, San Fernando Valley


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