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Learning Is Trashed When Kids Sit on Garbage Cans

November 09, 2002

Re "Class Size Is a Big Issue for Teachers," Nov. 5: As class size grows to the extent that children are sitting on top of trash cans, learning diminishes. How can our children feel valued when they are trying to learn under these conditions? Perhaps the L.A. Unified School District board is preparing us for the "No Child Left Behind" law passed in 2001, under which only "highly qualified" teachers will be in front of children by 2005. Of course, it's unlikely that 5,000 fully certificated teachers will be knocking down our doors, so it's more likely our children will be taught by substitutes while new teachers are becoming fully prepared. In my experience, no teachers are really highly qualified until their fifth year of teaching.

There is an elephant in the room, and we won't make progress until we deal with it. Students are expected to learn in overcrowded classes while Eli Broad and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan pull the strings from their lofty regions behind several school board members. We cannot lose district board member David Tokofsky. If that happens, I'll vote for the breakup of the LAUSD in a heartbeat.

Barbara Huff

Encino

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How can anyone, with a straight face, claim that class size doesn't matter for learning? Common sense tells you that cramming 50 students in a room with one teacher and expecting the teacher to teach, rather than simply engage in crowd control, is absurd. If small classes aren't crucial to instructional effectiveness, why don't private schools have large classes? After all, more students mean more tuition.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles

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My son attends Frost Middle School. At the beginning of the semester I complained to his counselor when I learned that he was sitting on the floor for one of his academic subjects. Your article quotes one assistant principal as stating that the stress is "a little higher." As a teacher in the LAUSD with a classroom of 20 children, I have to insist that the stress upon these teachers has got to be overwhelming. Add to that the LAUSD's mania to document English language development and other assessments and the problem of lost instruction time further diminishes the possibility of real learning taking place.

Supt. Roy Romer doesn't understand what tough economic circumstances are. Try teaching children who don't have a shower or bath in their apartments, or who sleep doubled in a bed, or worse, lack a bed. Cut out the mini-districts. Save the salaries, rent and unnecessary paperwork that they are producing. Cut out the new board building. Let them work in crowded rooms, on old furniture, with dirty bathrooms and poor-quality cafeteria food. Don't tell the teachers "we have to manage our way through this." We know what really matters; we spend our lives teaching children. They are the only thing that matters.

Delia Curiel

Northridge

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As a new resident, I was appalled when Californians spoke disparagingly of their public school system, which at one time was a model worthy of emulation by the rest of the nation. Your article gives the rationale for this dismal view as it depicts overcrowded classrooms and underpaid, overworked teachers coping with problems of discipline and with teaching common human courtesies, when they should be devoting their time to the job of transferring civilization from one generation to the next. Education is big business, and it requires big funding, the benefits of which are realized only after the students have completed their education and established their vocations. Frugality may be a virtue, but excessive penuriousness in funding public schools can be a formula leading to disaster.

John Lihani

Pasadena

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