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Not All Students Are Achievers

January 14, 2003

Re "State Keeps Education Standards," Jan. 9: In my opinion as a high school teacher, the goal of the No Child Left Behind federal education act, to bring 100% of public school children to academic proficiency, is plainly unrealistic. This goal not only ignores the unwieldy and needlessly complex California state content standards but naively underestimates the countervailing effects of economic, social, cultural, linguistic and historical variables, not to mention a more or less constant percentage of adolescent, surly indifference to academic culture itself. (Did I mention I teach high school?)

Comparably, could one expect the federal government to ever realize a "no citizen left behind" goal to bring 100% of U.S. citizens above the poverty line? A good idea and a noble goal, but I don't think that will happen either.

David J. Russell

Los Angeles

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As a retired teacher, I no longer need to be politically correct. Expecting all high school students to achieve proficiency that would qualify them for a four-year university is not only unrealistic but counterproductive. No matter how talented, qualified and dedicated a teacher is, there are students who simply cannot master the proficiencies tested on the state exam.

What are we to do with students who do not pass? Unlike other educational systems in the world, we have few alternatives for students who have artistic, musical, mechanical or other talents. How about students who are hard workers and can contribute to society but will always need supervision and guidance? We are fostering an atmosphere of failure for those students and for their teachers. High academic standards are good for many but are simply not possible for every child.

Karen McKay

Avalon

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