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Letters to the Editor: Advice for L.A. Unified’s new leader — let kids read by themselves

New LAUSD Supt. Alberto Carvalho visits John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles on Feb. 16.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: As a longtime teacher of kids having difficulty in school, I’m worried about The Times’ description of new L.A. Unified School District Supt. Alberto Carvalho as a leader “acutely focused on testing and other data to improve school and student performance.”

I just worry about how much of that “other data” involves how much time kids spend freely reading books of their choice.

My class was grouped as the “lowest scorers” in third grade. We started the day with an hour of silent reading. The kids chose the books to read. As a teacher, I showed them lots of possibilities for good reading.

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And I told my talkative principal, “No interruptions, please.” The kids, who’d probably never seen an adult reading, saw me read during that hour.

Individually, they wrote to their favorite authors. Imagine the thrill of having such stars as Jack Prelutsky and Beverly Cleary write back.

At the end of the year, every child except one scored at grade level or above on the sacred standardized test. Now, I only wish I had the data so important to Carvalho — the number of pages read by those kids in books they chose to read.

Susan Ohanian, Charlotte, Vt.

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To the editor: Listen for the clash of titans as the new LAUSD leader encounters the teachers unions in this state and the Democratic politicians whose campaigns they underwrite.

Apparently Carvalho believes improving low student achievement depends on hard data gathered by informed and engaged teachers and principals who will be expected to routinely assess kids’ academic skills and report the results.

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That will be a herculean feat, considering that California has managed over the last decade to diminish or dismantle intelligible district reports to parent communities on area schools.

Frances O’Neill Zimmerman, La Jolla

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