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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

School Reform Begins With Students' Needs

August 23, 2003

"Yesterday's Failure Is Tomorrow's 'Reform' " (Opinion, Aug. 17), on the L.A. Unified School District, gets it half right. To be sure, the schools can be reformed only, as Jeff Horton says, when the needs of students come first. But why has the idea of "putting students first" become little more than a cliche? Putting students first would mean that the system would have to be redesigned to produce high-quality education for every student. And anyone -- from school board members to administrators, the union and classroom teachers -- would have to be willing to risk losing some of the power they now hold. But in a district like the LAUSD, redistributing power so the system can be fixed seems like a dream.

One is left to wonder if we care enough about all students to insist that they come first. Or do our individual interests come first? Sadly, it is becoming more and more the American way: Those who can, buy their way out, letting the system collapse on those who are left behind.

Buzz Wilms

Topanga

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