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'Vouchers' Not Answer While O.C. Public Schools Do Good Job

June 27, 1993

* In reading Irvine parent Sonja Lynn Jacobs' version of kindergarten life at an Irvine public school ("Suellen Just Wants to Learn to Read," June 21), I was struck by the vast difference between her account and the experience of my two children at a neighboring Irvine public school using the same curriculum.

Most Irvine elementary schools use a specialized curriculum in grades K-2 titled Assured Readiness for Learning (ARL).

What makes this curriculum so special is the way in which it prepares young children for advanced learning through emphasis upon directionality, ear training, hands-on math and reading. I emphasize reading because that seemed to be Ms. Jacobs' greatest concern. ARL builds the skills necessary for reading in a developmentally appropriate manner.

I suppose it's true that Irvine public schools don't aim to "teach" reading per se in kindergarten; rather, they prepare children for reading by reading to them frequently and by exploring the written word in a wide variety of ways. Part of this exploration involves the emphasis upon the 19 most frequently used letters of the alphabet as Ms. Jacobs noted; but rather than the limiting approach which Ms. Jacobs described, the children approach the letters in a number of different ways: For instance, the letter "b" might be traced by gluing beans to a piece of brown paper or by tossing bean bags, or by playing with bunches of balloons, or bouncing the ball on the blacktop. The teachers read books which emphasize the theme letter. In all, it's a wonderful, refreshing and easy approach, which most of the children appear to enjoy immensely. Despite Ms. Jacobs' assertion, no kindergartner is ever discouraged from reading and, by the end of the year, many are reading.

Perhaps, if Ms. Jacobs had been present in the classroom (all parents are encouraged to help in their child's classroom, but some choose not to), she would have seen the bigger picture rather than assuming that the children sit around chanting the letters of the alphabet. The proof of the efficacy of this approach comes when these same kindergartners go on to first grade, where they are not only reading, but also writing poetry, short essays, proverbs, stories and the like.

By Ms. Jacobs' own admission she only gave the public school a brief try. Perhaps if she had kept her daughter there she would have experienced the joy of reading a poem or funny story written by her daughter next year in the first grade.

Finally, Ms. Jacobs' assertion that the school choice will "solve" what she perceives is a problem with public schooling is astounding. Why should taxpayers pay to subsidize her choice of a private school which, contrary to accepted educational wisdom, is willing to stress the teaching of reading in kindergarten? I'd rather see my tax dollars going to buy more books for my child's classroom, or more brown crayons for drawing brown bears.

KATHLEEN KING

Irvine

* I was disheartened to read that Sonja Lynn Jacobs ("Suellen Just Wants to Learn to Read," June 21) was not pleased with the Turtle Rock Elementary school curriculum for her daughter. It is unfortunate that the teacher did not inform her that Irvine has an open school district and she is allowed to enroll her child in any of Irvine's 22 schools (two are Back to Basics curriculum, three are year-round).

It is also unfortunate that it did not occur to her to transfer her daughter to anything but a private school. I can assure Ms. Jacobs that my son learned all 26 letters in kindergarten and was learning to read by the year's end at Alderwood Basics Plus, which is located down off Turtle Rock hill in the Woodbridge section of Irvine. The choice is now hers.

MARCIE HEITZMANN

Irvine

* Sonja Lynn Jacobs does not speak for me about public schools. My son has had a wonderful education experience at Barcelona Hills Elementary School in Mission Viejo. My daughter will attend kindergarten there next year, and I will send her with no hesitation whatsoever.

Ms. Jacobs wrote that when you're a bright child in a public school, you learn early that school is a place where you draw pictures on your desk and watch the clock. I take offense to this gross generalization as she does not know my child, the public school he attends or its staff.

Ms. Jacobs states that the voucher system would force the public schools to concern themselves with results, to listen to parents and to teach children. "These are three things they no longer adequately do. . . ." she cannot lump Barcelona Hills into this blanket statement about what schools no longer do.

I do not think the Parental Choice Initiative (voucher) is the answer to her dissatisfaction. That is why I will be voting "No" against the initiative and will be working to defeat it in November.

ANN SHORES

Mission Viejo

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