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Education, race and culture

September 18, 2007

Re "Learning in color," editorial, Sept. 16

Your editorial makes the important point that closing the achievement gap requires curricula that address the specific needs of black and Latino students. For those of us who have accepted the challenge of educating these students (the charter school I founded is 75% Latino and 15% African American), the point is well taken and obvious. But your point that "race" needs to be acknowledged is unfortunate and dead wrong. The achievement gap has nothing to do with race and everything to do with social class and culture. Unless you are willing to say that black and brown families struggle with literacy and own few books because of their skin, it is probably a more accurate comment that public schools serving these families need to compensate for the challenges their children bring to school because of class and culture. This is not a trivial point; the danger of talking "race" is that it implies a deficit at birth as opposed to what happens after, which can be overcome by raising the bar and providing more time on task and an atmosphere of learning driven by teachers who expect success.

Roger Lowenstein

Los Angeles

The writer is founder and executive director of the Los Angeles Leadership Academy.

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I wholeheartedly agree with your characterization of the achievement gap, yet I vehemently disagree with your race-based solution. We should not design race-specific educational programs. The children doing well at Ralph J. Bunche and Edison elementary schools are not taught "programs based on race." They are taught with adequately supplied state-approved programs by knowledgeable teachers who make the curriculum accessible and expect children to excel.

What varies is the instruction -- instruction that utilizes the background knowledge, language skills and learning environment these children possess, yet expects them to perform well on the statewide assessments with the statewide curriculum and provides them support to do so. Standards-aligned curriculum, instruction and assessment paired with effective strategies, capable professionals, attentive parents and supportive community members will be our way to success.

Renee Hill

Riverside

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As a retired teacher, I read your editorial with critical interest. Nothing is mentioned in your editorial about the responsibility of parents. Much has been written about the failure to educate our children, and it is a shame, but parents must also assume responsibility. Students who have parents who send them to school ready to learn are more likely to succeed. "Ready to learn" means a good night's rest, breakfast, his or her homework supervised and having parents who attend conferences. That gives children the message that they are expected to work on their education.

Georgie Grutbo

La Habra Heights

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