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The LAUSD's new system for rating teachers; burning Korans; Rep. Paul Ryan's deficit-reduction plan

April 17, 2011

New system doesn't pass the stress test

Re "LAUSD unveils school rating system," April 13

The Los Angeles Unified School District just can't completely eliminate that "gotcha" feel of rating teachers by using more developmentally attractive terminology ("value added").

I've had children in Los Angeles-area school systems for more than 20 years. In that time, I've seen a paradigm shift in the educational system from a truly developmental perspective to one that stresses greater competition and test-taking skills.

We obsess over studies showing how stressed our children are. Heaping constant public scrutiny on already beleaguered teachers creates stress for the teachers. We then take those stressed-out kids and those stressed-out teachers and send them to a place where they hang out together all day. Talk about an environment conducive to success.

Cathryn Roos

La Habra

The article on school ratings considered the validity of ratings and the uses to which they might be put. But although it mentioned one school's scoring near the top on the state Academic Performance Index while appearing as "one of the lowest performing" in the district, it did not comment on the reason for the apparent anomaly: the ceiling effect.

Because the school had an API score of 938 on a 1,000-point scale, its scores had practically no chance to show a gain.

Arthur M. Cohen

Los Angeles

I can see the description in the graduate program for teaching brochure now: "Wanted: fresh, young, talented students guaranteed public humiliation and pink slips before you even finish your first year."

Boy, they sure better get their applications in fast. With enticements like that, the rush to apply could be like the day after Christmas at Wal-Mart.

Karen Berrenson

Woodland Hills

Burning Korans — and bridges

Re "Free speech isn't a free pass," Opinion, April 12

I don't think Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is far off the mark about the Florida pastor who burned the Koran. We have troops in harms way who are trying to win over locals so as not to have more Afghans trying to kill them. Then this renegade minister effectively sabotages that effort by not only insulting the religion of our enemies but also that of our Afghan allies and, most important, the ones who could go either way.

Tokyo Rose was jailed for less after World War II.

William S. Seckler

Corona

Jonah Goldberg makes the reasonable if somewhat obvious point that acts such as the public burning of the Koran, whereas protected by the 1st Amendment, ought to be roundly criticized by reasonable-thinking Americans. His train leaves the track, however, when he reasons that conservatives will engage in this criticism while liberals will not. This absurd sentiment fosters the very political polarization that keeps our country from acting to solve its mounting problems.

Alan Abajian

Alta Loma

Carving up Rep. Ryan's plan

Re "The slasher?" Opinion, April 12

Michael Kinsley ends his piece by saying that not all of Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) ideas are terrible. At least Ryan is leading a national conversation, in which there is nothing but gridlock and partisan infighting.

No one is naive enough to believe Ryan's proposals will pass as written. Still, his austerity measures have already forced the president to come up with some serious deficit-reduction proposals.

Kicking the problem down the road is politics as usual, and politicians who don't address the deficit will soon be out of office. We saw this last November. Ryan's proposal is a starting point, and the public gets it. Kinsley and the partisan left do not.

Terry Johnston

Newport Beach

I agree with Kinsley's assessment that Ryan's budget is a disaster, especially in dealing with healthcare costs. The current system, in which the federal government matches state Medicaid expenditures, protects the neediest Americans by making it expensive for states to cut coverage.

Many people touting the savings of block grants point to Rhode Island, which has a hybrid model in which the state receives a large grant and additional Medicaid funding to pay for healthcare for the poor. However, the cap on Medicaid spending is placed at a level far exceeding the projected expenditures. Ryan's grants would be far less generous.

Unless the GOP's budget provides enough funds to cover existing Medicaid recipients, the burden will fall on the states to make up the difference or else many poor Americans will lose healthcare coverage.

Adam Hyams

Jericho, N.Y.

While Kinsley criticizes Ryan's budget plan, he ignores the fact that the Democrats, when they controlled both houses of Congress, did not pass a budget for fiscal year 2011, which began last Oct. 1.

Without intending to, Kinsley has brilliantly illustrated the truth of the saying, "Talk is cheap."

Edward S. Reisman

Santa Monica

Return of Dubya

Re "Bush defends taxpayer bailout," April 13

Did I read this correctly? Did the former standard-bearer of the Republican Party just say that the aid he approved for Wall Street may have averted a disaster?

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