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Letters to Teaching to Change LA
Acting On Our Rights

On one hand, I am so very proud to be a school board member in a district that can produce students who can articulate and are willing to openly discuss the important issues of social justice. On the other hand, Cynthia's paper demonstrates to me that there is still so much more work to be done. I welcome the opportunity to continue to work for providing quality education for all students and to always be willing to listen, ask and repond to the hard questions that will lead to greater access for all.
--Pam Brady, SMMUSD School Board Member

I am commenting on the article by Fallon Hollis. I have know Fallon for a quite a while, as I am her Sunday School Teacher at Peace Apostolic Church. In reading her article I must say that I am very proud of her. She took the challenge that was offered to her by her U.S. History teacher despite a students' comment of "You're serious, you really want to do that?". It appears that research has strengthened her and given her self-confidence. With the help of the Lord Fallon will go far. I hope other students ( elementary, junior and high School) will read her article and be encouraged and know that regrdless of race, economic status and where you reside, you can be someone. I would not be surprised if she majors in Journalism in college as her article was well written. God bless you Sis Fallon and once again I am very proud of you.
--Alexis Odom

On Standardized Testing . . .

Sonia Hernández offers some useful cautions about the SAT-9 test, but misses the key point that this, like all norm-referenced tests, was never designed to tell us whether a student is learning well, or a school is teaching well. The point, rather, is to rank one against the other. The results, reported in relative terms, is useful only for those who are more concerned with victory ("Who's beating whom?") than with excellence. Half of those who take such tests will always score below the median and look like failures. What's more, the questions on the SAT-9 and similar tests are selected not for their importance (that is, whether they reflect knowledge students should have) but for their effectiveness in spreading out the scores. Questions that most students answer correctly will be dropped from these exams and replaced with those that only about half the students get right. Such tests are designed, in other words, so that all students can never succeed. No wonder a growing number of parents are refusing to send their children to school on the days that the tests are administered.
--Alfie Kohn, Author of The Case Against Standardized Testing

It is my opinion that we place to much emphasis on all types of standardized tests. One thing tests of this nature accomplish is furthering the gap between diverse individuals, whether it is academic or social. It identifies winners and losers. It removes the tool for teaching to individual students since the results are likely to destroy any progress a students makes based on the timeline for the students' ability. I believe we should raise our expectations for students in an effort to improve their self-esteem and self-worth, but not through standardized testing programs. Our focus should be on positive changes within inidiviual students. The "intelligence" factor is the least of our concerns.
--Mike Carter, Catoosa Crossroads Academy

Here, here! Let's do away with standards of performance. After all kids will not be held to any standards when they become adults. If they are hired into a low level employment or their employment is terminated because they failed to perform, they can take the matter up with the FEH people as a matter of unfair and illegal discrimination. Everyone knows that it is illegal to discriminate. That must apply to discrimination between those who meet or exceed a standard and those who do not. We can do away with such discrimination by doing away with standards of performance. Without standards of performance---why not behavior in general?---all people can be treated exactly the same

Since laws impose standards of behavior and performance, we can repeal all of them since they inherently lead to discrimination between those who behave in concert with them and those who do not. After we eliminate the tests of academic achievement, we can eliminate grades since grades, by their very existence are discriminatory. We can move on to removing scoring from athletic contests. We could eliminate tests entirely. That way, no one need feel inferior in any way to any one else. After all, this is a free society. Hard and fast rules on spelling and arithmetic calculations show a lack of imagination and is antithetical to freedom of choice (if I want to spell fish as ghoti, why should I not do so?).

Another benefit of removing standards, they are typically, at the margin, abritrary and imperfect. If we cannot have perfect standards, then why have any standards at all? If standards are imperfect and, at the margin, arbitrary, they cannot be fair and, if not fair, without value to society. Of course, we run into a problem, how will we be able to discern between a safe and unsafe environment for our kids? Thus, for example, the bringing and using of weapons at school as at Columbine cannot be adjudged as misbehavior, because there will be no standard of behavior. Under such circumstances, we must accept casualties and, for goodness sake, let's not blame the little tykes. It might do damage to their little psyches. And Lord forefend that my little bundle of pride and joy might be below average in some way. We do away with performance measures and there is no average. The inability to be above average will just have to be the price we pay.
David H. Hendon 6/02

Regarding Tommy Chang's article

I think that the research provided in this section will help many students, like myself, feel greatly motivated in getting into college and especially after reading the conditions of the Compton High school approach.
--Compton High Student

I found out about this website because of my science teacher, Mr. Tommy Chang. Now that I finally visit it I realize that there are many interesting things I didn't know of regarding my college future.I believe this website is great not only for myself but for many students who would like to go to college. Keep up the good job and continue informing me about my opportunities to attend college and become a succesful person.
--Gabriela Rodriguez, Compton High School

On Quality Teachers . . .

It appears that in all of articles I have read in this month's issue regarding access to quality teachers, a number questions need to be addressed. First, does a teaching credential make a quality teacher, or just a credentialed teacher? Second, is quality in teaching truly related to the classes taken in order to acquire a credential, or is it a matter of experience, enthusiasm, and dedication? And third, if teachers will become better through being treated like professionals, then why cannot we come up with a professional test to ensure their basic skills which is devoid of any claim of racial bias? If the CBEST is biased, replace it. But at the moment, speaking as someone who has taken the CBEST, I would not allow my children to be taught by anyone who couldn't pass it, and in fact, I think a new or revised test, in whatever form it takes, should be much more rigorous.
--William Silverman, UCLA

I thought you had some very thoughtful ideas about teaching. I am a teacher, and especially responded to your ideas on the teacher-student relationship.
--Debbie Mcintyre, Peninsula College at OCC 2/8/02

I'm a long time resident of a neighborhood similar to the one I'm student teaching in. It was great to find your web site as I was doing some teacher research. Very inspiring about urban education. Thank you. It's easier for me to read on paper than on screen. Would appreciate a printer friendly format - didn't see any place for that.
--Debbie Lubar, Dorchester High School

Request for Information for Potential Teachers

All I can say is wow. I was interested in pursuing a teaching career in the Los Angeles area, but was skeptical of the political forces at work that delineate out the system of education here. And this website has offered me a glimpse of hope. Perhaps I am a naiive senior who is on the brink of graduation and thinks that she is going to change the world. Or perhaps I am just innocently impressed by such a forum for open ideas and discussion in such a day when this type of ideology will not be embraced by the mainstream. I am going to ask if there is by chance any information that I may recieve regarding teaching a new elective for LAUSD this fall. I would love to teach a specific course but have no idea of where to begin to start this process. I would really appreciate any leads or information to get me started.
--Viviana Franco 6/20/02

I think that your site is a great way to express the necessity of having quality teachers in classrooms. However, I think that it would be helpful if you have resources that help people who would like to be teachers find their way; I might need it someday.
--Sean Yee, Monta Vista High School

How does one become a credentialed teacher?
-Tamara Bounds, Financial Advisor

GIS Maps

Inspirational! Great use of GIS software -- students are using data to present original and provocative ideas. It inspires me to think harder about what I could have my science students do. Great job.
--Jack McLeod, Cascade High School

It is very difficult to understand where I am looking at the maps. We just moved here and I think the maps should have lables or some sort of delineation so those of us unfamiliar with the area can understand if this represents just Los Angeles or how much of the surrounding areas. Is it just LA County or Orange county or Irvine or what? Very confusing for those of us unclear on maps and the area.

I would like to say that this young bright girl did a wonderful job. It shows that our society needs to focus more on our education. I would like to thank this young girl Nancy for inspiring us all to think of what is going on in low income areas. Thank you we will now be able to sleep at night knowing there are young girls out there like Nancy.
--Maria, Fresno State University

This is amazing work. Congratulations students and Mr. Sarnoff for your inspiring and informative pieces.

Thoroughly enjoyed the site, particularly student map. What are the answers? Is it reasonable to expect teachers to desire to teach in a school where they might expect that they would face discipline problems and possibly violence? Is it reasonable for teachers to have those expectations? Tough issues.
--Robert C. Fuller, North Georgia College and State University

I love this web site. . It's nice to see student work--particularly the GIS projects!
--Cindy Cruz, Pacific Oaks College / UCLA 3/11/02

I loved the segment where GIS mapping was used. The students have done an excellent job and the maps are very revealing. I did not realize that uncreditialed people are in such great numbers.

--Judy Purcell 2/10/02

Alternative Teaching Roles

I stumbled upon your web site today looking for some information on people volunteering in the classroom from UCLA. The work you are publishing is insightful and sharp. It generates thought which is great. Personally I work full time as an architect, but I also volunteer one day a week in the classroom, rotating between schools in east L.A. and Compton. I teach kids about architecture and tie it into projects they work on as part of their classwork. The bigger picture of all of this is that I am interested in trying to get professionals to reinvest in public schools. Teachers are overburdened and underpaid and a few hours of volunteer work in the classroom can make all the difference for an individual child or give an educator some much needed breathing room. Anyway if you are interested I would be willing to write a piece about that subject matter for submission to your web site. Let me know what you think. 2/02

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