Better evaluation systems for teachers; the Komen controversy; Obama's dust-up with Arizona Gov. Brewer

Teachable moments

Re "How to grade a teacher," Opinion, Jan. 29

Coleen Bondy nails the truth about the witch hunt perpetrated against teachers. As class sizes rise, support services are cut and students become increasingly unruly and cynical, teachers are scapegoated. With the L.A. Unified School District preparing to threaten teachers with 5,400 pink slips in March, it's time the public understands the reality.

The district is a cash cow for administrators, who hire new committees to wastefully purchase the next expensive cure-all that does nothing to fix the glaring problem: understaffed and underfunded schools with teachers increasingly under the gun to produce results. There is no mystery why half of all teachers leave the profession before five years.

The real fix — allotting the dollars back to education and returning teaching to the respectful status it once enjoyed — will never happen as long as the district continues to enable expensive boondoggles.

Wendy Blais

North Hills

Bondy, like so many teachers who have written to The Times, flatly rejects the results of an evaluation that shows her to be a below-average teacher. She complains that there are other factors involved besides her teaching — that the students are unmotivated and that there are distractions in the classroom.

But she ignores the fact that other teachers, faced with these same challenges, are doing better. She ignores the fact that science has long understood how to identify subtle effects amid other factors. She implicitly denies that improvement might be necessary.

There will always be uncertainties in evaluations. But we can be sure of one thing: As long as a teacher keeps putting the blame on outside factors, next year's results will be the same.

Geoff Kuenning


Enough already with debating the most effective accountability system. Give us something reasonable, hold us to high standards and let us tweak it if necessary.

I am the principal at Palms Middle School, one of the most diverse, high-performing schools in Los Angeles, with incredible, dedicated teachers. Let us do what we know we need to, and stop imposing ridiculous rules and regulations that only slow our progress. Stop using the same brush for all.

If we do nothing, nothing will happen.

Bonnie Murrow

Los Angeles

Not happy with Komen

Re "Komen defends itself amid defunding furor," Feb. 2, and "Women's health allies now divided," Feb. 1

Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said: "We're proud of the fact that we don't simply dump funds and run. We create activists — one person, one community, one state, one nation at a time — to try and solve the number one health concern of women."

In this case, the breast cancer foundation is dumping and running from an organization that has contributed substantially to its mission.

By withdrawing its support of Planned Parenthood's work on its behalf because of a thinly disguised witch hunt in Congress initiated by anti-choice Florida Republican Cliff Stearns as well as pressure from anti-choice activist groups, it is sending a message thatwomen's health services depend on political correctness, not medical necessity.

Julia Springer

Summerland, Calif.

The decision by Komen to discontinue funding for Planned Parenthood is shameful and a giant step backward for women's healthcare.

As a breast cancer survivor and a donor to both Komen and Planned Parenthood, I am outraged that this seemingly politically motivated move made so casually by Komen will affect many women who will be once again disenfranchised in the world of cancer prevention. I will stop contributing to Komen, stop wearing the pink ribbon and double my donations to Planned Parenthood.

I will also encourage my friends to do the same.

Irene Briggs

Huntington Beach

I find it quite interesting that a "pro-life" organization has canceled funding to support Planned Parenthood's lifesaving breast exams. Or are poor or uninsured women now considered merely collateral damage?

Ellen Odell


Gov. Brewer, pro and con

Re "Political finger-pointing," Opinion, Jan. 31

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer may have taken the wrong approach in arguing with President Obama on the tarmac. But lost in the commentary over the incident is why she may have been so upset: This president sued her and the state of Arizona for protecting itself. In fact, the lawsuit should have been the other way around.

Brewer stood up, and the president turned and walked away.

Don Lowe

Huntington Beach

I was amused by Jonah Goldberg's statement that "nothing excites the base of the Democratic Party — or gets more free media — than wildly implausible hysterics over racism, even when there's so little evidence to support the claim."

I invite Goldberg to view my trash bin and see the tasteless and vicious racial attacks aimed at the president and the first lady sent by many of my highly educated Republican friends who find them humorous.

I guess it depends what base you are on.

Tony Ruffolo


Crunching data

Re "Are they learning?," Opinion, Jan. 31

Jonathan Zimmerman informs us that one-third of college students "showed no significant gains" in reasoning and writing ability.

By inverting the data he cites, however, we can conclude that two-thirds of students do show improvement. Further, the research cited suggests that 45% of higher learners "showed no significant gains … between their freshman and sophomore years, and 36% didn't improve significantly between their sophomore and senior years."

In the one statistic, we can see that more than half the students tested did show improvement during the initial two years of study. In the latter bit of data, we again see that the majority of college students did improve "significantly" over the course of four academic years.

Though it's possible to improve on any system of education, is it any wonder, with the facts in Zimmerman's article, that American higher education is the envy of the world?

Ben Miles

Huntington Beach

Tax shelter?

Re "A knock-down fight in Malibu," Jan. 29

A hedge-fund manager wants to demolish a 7,000-square-foot, 6-year-old home in Malibu to build a 6,900-square-foot compound that better suits his family's needs.

This is why they need favorable tax treatment on their carried interest.

Steve Grimm

Fountain Valley

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