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Teachers Can Only Do So Much for Students

June 24, 2005

Thank you for Bonnie Duguid-Siegel's excellent article, "Good Grades Are a Matter of Class" (Voices, June 18). As a former Curtis School teacher who now works for the Los Angeles Unified School District, I can state that she is right on the mark.

I was "highly qualified" 12 years ago when I worked for Curtis, and I have become even more qualified in past years, having recently received my second master's degree; however, my students do poorly on standardized tests. They come to school with empty stomachs, untreated illness, poor dental care and with little English language skills. Most have never been to a museum or an art gallery, except on school field trips, and they own few books or newspapers. These are not issues that private school teachers usually encounter.

I have often said that if LAUSD wanted to raise test scores in the inner city, all it had to do was switch populations with a high achieving school. Teachers are working as hard as they can to fix society's problems. We are not social workers, counselors, dietitians or medical personnel, yet we need to fix these problems before we can begin teaching.

Test scores become a secondary issue when dealing with hunger, illness and poverty. We fix as much as we can, and then we teach. And we will continue to do all that we can, as well as teach.

Maralyn Soifer

West Hills

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