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A massive traffic jam in China; more on teachers and evaluations; the director of the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services answers critics

August 27, 2010

Same old road

Re "A great wall of traffic," Aug. 25

Whether Beijing or Los Angeles, it's time to face a simple but unpleasant truth: In a world as rapidly expanding as ours, it's no longer practical for individuals to own personal means of transportation. This isn't communist; it's logical.

We must end the "car culture" and begin a serious, sustained investment in affordable and efficient mass transportation, here and abroad.

Don't like it? Sleep on it in your car.

Gabriel McGowan

La Mirada

Names and data: Yes or no?

Re "L.A.'s leaders in learning," Aug. 22, and "LAUSD presses union on test scores," Aug. 21

The Times made a good case for its statistical methods and analysis, and also made a good case to justify the release of this information to the public.

If I were a good teacher, I would welcome this information. If I were a not-so-good teacher, I would have certain misgivings about having the data published.

I took me a few days but I finally realized where I come down on the issue of publicizing the data: The effectiveness of a given teacher is essentially a personnel matter, and personnel matters are generally kept confidential. So I would urge The Times to resist posting the teacher effectiveness ratings at this time.

Joel Robbins

North Hollywood

I taught in middle and high schools on a full-time basis beginning in 1962 and part time at community college starting in 1975. I retired from both in 2004.

Not long ago, I happened to watch the Indianapolis 500. I admired the cooperation between the driver and the pit crew. I also watched the preparation that went into the race. Delays at the pit stops or mechanical failures were important factors, and many times the experienced and seasoned driver could not compensate for the shortcomings.

What about the educational process? Wouldn't it be great if all parties concerned — parents, students, teachers and administrators — were willing to work hard to provide the best possible educational process? Is it wishful thinking? When some problems occur, should we all try to work it out, or chose the easy way by blaming the driver?

Ertuvan E. Kanatsiz

Orange

Thank you so much for your careful, comprehensive series on testing scores and teacher effectiveness. As the parent of two L.A. Unified elementary students, I encourage you to launch a second, similarly intensive look at an equally important area: the chronic underfunding of public education in California.

That, to me, is a question of greater and more urgent significance.

Kit Troyer

Los Angeles

I am sorry that The Times has taken up the cause of evaluating teachers based on improvement in student test scores. I submit that it is a bogus method of measuring teacher performance and will have a destructive influence on education in our classrooms.

Benchmarks of true education include a student learning to read and write well and taking responsibility for his or her own learning. Students need to carve out an area of interest, and have a drive to excel in it. This requires a nurturing and relaxed environment in which students can learn to think for themselves.

I don't see that an emphasis on test results will help achieve these educational goals; rather, it will detract from them.

Ralph Kottke

Sunland

Before The Times essentially "outs" the teachers, perhaps it should study the "value added" by the thousands of L.A. Unified administrators who never set foot in a classroom yet are paid more than many of the best teachers in the district.

The accuracy of your measurement of teacher quality is arguable. Your dedication to avoiding criticism of the district's administration is not.

Paul Cervantes

West Hills

Thank you for your excellent series on the use of "value added" analysis of student test scores. The conclusion that the most important factor in a child's education is the teacher is spot on. Unfortunately, it can take years for a student to recover from a poor teacher.

As your article shows, the principal is a crucial element in excellent schools. The leadership at each school is an often-overlooked factor in student achievement. A principal needs to act like any other boss, providing the tools and insisting that employees perform their jobs professionally.

The reaction of some teachers and union officials that value-added analysis might be used to fire teachers puzzles me. Use the information to become a better teacher. Firing any employee, whether in the private sector or at a public school, is a last resort.

Maureen Dearden

Torrance

I am a retired L.A. Unified teacher, and before retiring, I tried for 10 years to get the STAR test results for my students to see if there was any improvement during the time I taught them.

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