New system doesn't pass the stress test
Re "LAUSD unveils school rating system," April 13
The Los Angeles Unified School District just can't completely eliminate that "gotcha" feel of rating teachers by using more developmentally attractive terminology ("value added").
I've had children in Los Angeles-area school systems for more than 20 years. In that time, I've seen a paradigm shift in the educational system from a truly developmental perspective to one that stresses greater competition and test-taking skills.
We obsess over studies showing how stressed our children are. Heaping constant public scrutiny on already beleaguered teachers creates stress for the teachers. We then take those stressed-out kids and those stressed-out teachers and send them to a place where they hang out together all day. Talk about an environment conducive to success.
The article on school ratings considered the validity of ratings and the uses to which they might be put. But although it mentioned one school's scoring near the top on the state Academic Performance Index while appearing as "one of the lowest performing" in the district, it did not comment on the reason for the apparent anomaly: the ceiling effect.
Because the school had an API score of 938 on a 1,000-point scale, its scores had practically no chance to show a gain.
Arthur M. Cohen
I can see the description in the graduate program for teaching brochure now: "Wanted: fresh, young, talented students guaranteed public humiliation and pink slips before you even finish your first year."
Boy, they sure better get their applications in fast. With enticements like that, the rush to apply could be like the day after Christmas at Wal-Mart.
Burning Korans — and bridges
Re "Free speech isn't a free pass," Opinion, April 12
I don't think Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is far off the mark about the Florida pastor who burned the Koran. We have troops in harms way who are trying to win over locals so as not to have more Afghans trying to kill them. Then this renegade minister effectively sabotages that effort by not only insulting the religion of our enemies but also that of our Afghan allies and, most important, the ones who could go either way.
Tokyo Rose was jailed for less after World War II.
William S. Seckler
Jonah Goldberg makes the reasonable if somewhat obvious point that acts such as the public burning of the Koran, whereas protected by the 1st Amendment, ought to be roundly criticized by reasonable-thinking Americans. His train leaves the track, however, when he reasons that conservatives will engage in this criticism while liberals will not. This absurd sentiment fosters the very political polarization that keeps our country from acting to solve its mounting problems.
Carving up Rep. Ryan's plan
Re "The slasher?" Opinion, April 12
Michael Kinsley ends his piece by saying that not all of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) ideas are terrible. At least Ryan is leading a national conversation, in which there is nothing but gridlock and partisan infighting.
No one is naive enough to believe Ryan's proposals will pass as written. Still, his austerity measures have already forced the president to come up with some serious deficit-reduction proposals.
Kicking the problem down the road is politics as usual, and politicians who don't address the deficit will soon be out of office. We saw this last November. Ryan's proposal is a starting point, and the public gets it. Kinsley and the partisan left do not.
I agree with Kinsley's assessment that Ryan's budget is a disaster, especially in dealing with healthcare costs. The current system, in which the federal government matches state Medicaid expenditures, protects the neediest Americans by making it expensive for states to cut coverage.
Many people touting the savings of block grants point to Rhode Island, which has a hybrid model in which the state receives a large grant and additional Medicaid funding to pay for healthcare for the poor. However, the cap on Medicaid spending is placed at a level far exceeding the projected expenditures. Ryan's grants would be far less generous.
Unless the GOP's budget provides enough funds to cover existing Medicaid recipients, the burden will fall on the states to make up the difference or else many poor Americans will lose healthcare coverage.
While Kinsley criticizes Ryan's budget plan, he ignores the fact that the Democrats, when they controlled both houses of Congress, did not pass a budget for fiscal year 2011, which began last Oct. 1.
Without intending to, Kinsley has brilliantly illustrated the truth of the saying, "Talk is cheap."
Edward S. Reisman
Return of Dubya
Re "Bush defends taxpayer bailout," April 13
Did I read this correctly? Did the former standard-bearer of the Republican Party just say that the aid he approved for Wall Street may have averted a disaster?
Isn't that the language of the current Democratic administration claiming the same aversion from disaster? You know — the claims that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dismiss?
Is it possible that George W. Bush has just won our president a second term?
Bush taking credit for averting a financial disaster is like Jack the Ripper taking credit for sharpening the autopsy skills of 19th century English medical examiners.
Re "Hiding behind the badge," Opinion, April 11
It is Jim Newton who misses the larger point. There is no reason for anyone except the district attorney and personnel in the Police Department to know the identity of law enforcement officers involved in shootings, as they have the authority to investigate and take any appropriate action. That is were the accountability comes into play.
The district attorney is the people's duly elected official to handle such investigations. For shooting involving the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, there are two elected officials involved.
Releasing the names only puts the officers and their families at risk.
David R. Gillespie