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School's Disappointing Audit

July 20, 2002

My comment about "giving up" is the beginning, not the end, of what's happening at Fremont High School ("A School Flails in a Sea of Chaos," July 14). Teachers have not given up on our students or the school, only on the possibility of real reform coming out of the LAUSD or the state auditing process. Although our students often lack the skills to fully express their ideas in standard academic English, we know they are intelligent, sensitive and capable of higher-level thinking. We are often moved by their thoughtfulness, creativity and insight, in spite of the terrible toll taken in day-to-day ways by violence, poverty and racism.

Yes, their standardized test scores are very low, and it is vital they improve them, not as an end in itself but as a means to their own empowerment, so they become responsible, active members of society. Remember, we are the ones who applauded when promised "broad, systemic change." Our mistake was naively believing that the district and the state were truly committed to that process. Instead, our students are in a very real sense the prisoners of an inequitable educational system and the society that has allowed it to thrive. They attend a school at which most of the problems are directly related to the conflict between meeting the very real needs of teachers, counselors and students and the overcrowding and underfunding that have distorted education on this campus.

Teachers who arrive passionate about their subjects are worn down by bad management and made to feel powerless by a bureaucracy that rewards compliance over creativity. We hoped that the auditing team would have the power--and the courage--to make real changes, not merely the appearance of change.

I will never give up on my students, on their ability to create and to learn or on their right to an equitable education. They inspire me, they amaze me, they have kept me coming back for 20 years.

Mary Hoover

Fremont High School Librarian

*

Seventy percent of Fremont's 4,600 students don't understand what they read? That's not the failure of Fremont itself; that is the failure of a school system that refuses to do anything about social promotion. The LAUSD gave lip service to ending social promotion for a year, then dropped it completely.

Now, as in past years, a student can fail every class from first through eighth grades yet still be admitted as a freshman in high school. And since the district does not allow any remedial classes in high schools, you have students woefully unprepared for the classes they must take to graduate. No wonder two-thirds of Fremont's students drop out.

Had the LAUSD chosen to fix lower grades first and require proficiency of students before advancement, Fremont and all other high schools would fix themselves. Instead, the top administrators, led by an ex-governor with no knowledge of educational problems, try to fix everything backward: start at the high school and move down.

Rick Kimberly

San Pedro

*

What a disgrace. L.A. Unified is one of the biggest school districts in the richest state in the richest country in the world, and it can't educate its students? Surely there is an optimum size for a school district--and over 700,000 students can't be it. Break it up! And then hold those administrators' feet to the fire until they make it work.

Valerie Garcia

Fountain Valley

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