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Education and evaluation

September 17, 2009

Re "Run the Race to the Top?: California must act to ensure it gets needed federal school funds," and "The initiative uses the wrong means to achieve education reform," Opinion, Sept. 15

In responding to Walt Gardner's Op-Ed article, I believe that test scores are one of the valid measures of a teacher's effectiveness.

I just retired after 37 years as a teacher in the public schools. I taught in schools with students whose "bleak situation" was described by Gardner. The fact is, within those schools are good and bad teachers. The students know it, and the other teachers know it.

It has been my experience that test results, if followed over a period of a few years, do correlate with the quality of teaching. Teachers should be evaluated in a multifaceted manner, but test results are a valid part of that evaluation.

Craig Wright

Whittier

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Gardner's piece unintentionally illustrates why we must implement a well-designed teacher evaluation program in our schools.

Boiled down, he seems to be arguing that successfully teaching disadvantaged kids is hopeless, that teachers burn out in this environment and that putting more pressure on them will merely increase the burnout rate.

Think about that for a minute. Even if true, the only chance to improve on this situation is to have our best, most idealistic and motivated teachers in the classrooms. Those who can't function in this environment or who have lost the passion should move on -- willingly or not. Turnover is not always a bad thing.

A well-designed appraisal process, which incorporates measures of student progress, is the only way to recognize effective teachers -- and ineffective ones.

Unions resist any efforts to meaningfully evaluate teachers because they fight for job security, working conditions and compensation. Someone needs to look out for our children. Where's their union?

Jef Kurfess

Westlake Village

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It is clear from the two opinion pieces on teacher evaluations that there is widespread agreement that home background and parental child-rearing behavior is the dominant determinant of success at school.

Isn't it time we revaluated just how much schools can achieve without full support from the parents?

Not focusing on the parents is not helping the children from these homes.

We should be allocating most of the support to educating parents on how to raise children with a higher likelihood of being productive citizens. And we need to adopt standards of participation for parents to receive the benefits of our public efforts.

The state cannot substitute for poor parenting, and thus we need to reward active participation for at-risk families and reduce services for those who ignore the needs of their children.

Roy Krausen

Oakland

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I applaud the Obama administration for recognizing the need to reform the ways in which teachers are assessed, and the president is right to insist that states must improve the way they gauge teacher performance before receiving any federal funding.

Asking for such changes is an excellent move, considering current state law renders California ineligible for "Race to the Top" funds.

That's also why the governor is proposing a standards-based growth-assessment model that more accurately depicts how a student is learning over time so that teachers and schools can identify what works and improve on what doesn't.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has offered serious reforms that will bring more accountability to schools and will allow the specific needs of students and teachers to be better addressed. These measures are the correct steps toward real progress.

Glen Thomas

Sacramento

The writer is California's secretary for education.

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As a veteran teacher, Gardner knows what he's talking about. Teachers alone can't deal with the hard-core social ills that plague public education.

Teachers need strong, broad community support. Schools and teachers need aid from all quarters of society.

We should encourage much more cross-grade interaction among students. Bring in neighboring high school students into middle schools; bring in the relatives, the neighbors. They could help students learning to read and to enjoy the pleasures -- and advantages -- of reading.

Let schools be places for learning, not places that kill the spirit of learning through standardized tests and standardized test preparation.

John Gabriel

Chicago

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