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Spanning the education gap

November 27, 2007

Re "State summit targets ethnic gap in student achievement," Nov. 18

How many more expensive and time-consuming studies are going to be done to determine the reason for learning gaps among various ethnicities and economic groups? A simple three-question survey will give the experts all the information they need: How old was the child's mother when she gave birth to her first child? Is there a consistent, positive male role model living in the home? What is the education level of the adults who live with the child? I will bet that all the underachieving schools have a high percentage of students whose answers to those questions will make the cause for failure clear.

Elaine Herold

Rancho Palos Verdes

It's not white teachers or black and Latino parents at the root of the divide between white and black and Latino children in our schools. It's our narrow and uninformed idea of "achievement" and how disrespectfully we treat our students' brain biochemistry, teacher aspirations and parental roles. The time spent finger-pointing and bickering among 4,000 educators would have been productive, healing and exciting if the gathering had been based on neuro-scientific evidence on childhood's optimal learning timeline that transcends socioeconomic circumstances. This information is readily available to even the layperson today, but largely ignored by policymakers. It's time we take politics and our personal guilt trips out of the classroom and look at what every child's brain requires, when it needs what and how it is best taught. Why is brain science hot in every field but education?

Joan Jaeckel

Studio City

The writer is founder and director of the Generation Project.

How about stopping the unproductive finger-pointing and flimsy excuses and focusing on the ethnic families that are doing a superior job of producing good students? A survey of 1,000 of these families might well turn up solutions and insights that reveal the best practices in rearing children. Moreover, have the study conducted by a totally objective, outside firm.

N. Richard Lewis

Los Angeles

The Times, like most education "experts," concentrates too much on race and not enough on how gender is driving the ethnic education gap. Between high school freshmen enrollment and high school graduation, African American males lose 22% of their percentage in the schools, and their sisters lose 4.6%. Latino males lose 22% of their percentage at high school graduation, and their sisters lose 5.3%.

Race and social class are important, but what effect does a more than 70% female teaching force have on boys, especially boys with no proper male role model? Do the different learning modalities of boys and girls and the different teaching strategies of men and women favor one gender over the other?

John Perez

North Hollywood

The writer is vice chair of the California Postsecondary Education Commission.

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