Re "Iraq in the rear-view mirror," Aug. 19
The story of the last, long journey of the Army's 4th Brigade out of Iraq to Kuwait is bittersweet. In the 1960s and '70s, we decimated a generation in a misdirected war in Vietnam. And now we see the end results of seven years in Iraq: a government and people who don't particularly like us, and young men who now have trouble fitting into the American society they sought to defend.
The Times writes of the anger and frustration of some of these men: shared rock songs of tragedy and death, divorces from home, the last lingering line of one song, "Nothing really matters. Nothing really matters to me."
We will be as unsuccessful integrating these young people, many with no other options when they joined, as we were with the veterans of the Vietnam War. Most of us won't want to see the stories of their futures unwind over the next 20 years. This doesn't happen in other countries.
Teachers and their data
Re "Teachers, by the numbers," Editorial, Aug. 17
I am a parent and strongly disagree with The Times releasing teacher test score data to the public.
This will create a negative impact on schools. Parents already lobby for their favorite teachers, even without these data. Releasing this information will make it difficult for principals to run their schools.
The data should be used as a tool to help principals evaluate and improve their teaching staff.
The Times made an irresponsible decision when it published an evaluation of teachers based on a so-called value-added model using student test scores.
Just as factors beyond the control of journalists contribute to declining newspaper circulation, there are numerous forces a teacher can't control that affect a child's performance on tests.
So far, no value-added model has been created that adequately factors the effects of extreme poverty, attendance, broken homes, illiterate parents, poor health and other variables.
Value-added modeling is famously inconsistent. In one case, 30% of math teachers who ranked in the bottom quintile one year were above the median the following year.
One problem is that it's often impossible to know which teacher contributed most to a student's learning. Was it the English teacher, the reading specialist or a tutor? Value-added can't answer that question.
Because of such problems, this model isn't a reliable way to label or evaluate teachers, and to do so was misleading to readers of the newspaper.
Dennis Van Roekel
The writer is president of the National Education Assn.
We applaud The Times for prying open the classroom doors.
It is time for a real understanding of how effective teaching occurs. With almost half of L.A. Unified's students failing to make the grade, it is unclear to us why the district's teachers union isn't advocating an approach to improve public education — which it is empowered to bring about — and is instead calling for a boycott of The Times. It seems ironic.
It is our belief that public education can only be improved when there is a close, honest look at the system as a whole. What goes on in the classroom is the core foundation.
We understand that it must be scary for some teachers to realize that their performance is about to be looked at by parents whose children's future depends on their ability to teach effectively. However, if teachers are willing to embrace best practices used by peers with proven records of success, everyone will benefit for generations to come.
Victoria Rierdan Hurley
The writers are executive directors of MOMS UNITE.
I am a retired public school teacher with 32 years of experience. I applaud your efforts. The stakes are too high to suffer anything less than complete transparency.
You must first tell the truth. Keep fighting.
Getting rid of leaks
Re "Aid in leaks probe ordered," Aug. 18
The director of the Department of Children and Family Services says that information obtained by The Times is causing a morale problem in her agency.
Morale is low not because those children died but because the public knows about it?
Feeling the pain of foreclosures
Re "Fighting back on foreclosures," Editorial, Aug. 17
Your editorial mentioned only those homeowners who could no longer afford their homes. What about the buyers who submitted false documents to obtain loans, and the ramifications of their actions?
Our nine-unit homeowners association in Burbank experienced a 78% foreclosure rate due to mortgage fraud. Some of these buyers didn't have a driver's license or Social Security number yet obtained $500,000 or $600,000 mortgage loans without any trouble.
How could a bank or escrow company not check the identification of a home buyer?