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Standards for Urban School Districts

May 18, 1997

Re "L.A.'s School District Doesn't Deserve to Be Called a Failure," Opinion, May 11:

Richard Rothstein has apparently decided to take the next step in the "dumbing down" of our school system. His ilk have already succeeded in lowering academic standards (for the stated purpose of ensuring student "self-esteem"). Now he wants the public to lower its expectations of the LAUSD faculty and administration.

I wouldn't allow my car, plumbing or computer to be worked on by someone who stated in advance that he wasn't sure whether or not he could fix it. And those things can all be replaced. Children can't. It is really something that Rothstein would go out of his way to ration- alize, and even justify, an educational system that regularly graduates young people who cannot fill out even the simplest of forms or multiply small numbers without a calculator.

A high school graduate should be able to read and write English fluently, balance a checkbook and fill out an employment application. Period. Any less and district employees are cheating both the students and the taxpayers.

DRU ALAN JEANIS

Sun Valley

* Thank you to Rothstein for setting the record straight regarding the so-called "failure" of the Los Angeles Unified School District. As a teacher working in the heart of the inner city in LAUSD, I am affected every day by the children I teach. The disadvantages of poverty and lack of language skills mean that teachers are faced with enormous challenges in educating these students. Those students who do succeed give teachers the motivation to continue. However, the numbers of those successful students are dwindling, leaving us to cope with even more frustration.

I am becoming impatient of the criticism toward inner-city public schools by those who have never encountered, or forgotten, what it's like to teach in such a school. Maybe critics should be spending some time in the inner-city classrooms. From now on I will brag that I "work for the most successful institution of assimilation and mobility anywhere in the world--American urban public education."

SEMEEN R. ISSA

Arcadia

* I "fail" to understand Rothstein's definitions of failure and success in education. Was it success that had the whole class of Latino students entering Jaime Escalante's room branded low-achieving and "at risk"? Was it a failure when every one of his students passed the exam in math?

Is success by top athletes or top students really based on the teaching of the coach or teacher? Or, is the "real" quality of any teaching, classroom or sport demonstrated by the growth in the average student? If LAUSD stopped accepting "realistic" performance by "lower class" students, would the performance of the students go up?

LARRY L. SEVERSON

Fountain Valley

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