Chronological age model outmoded

To the editor:

Gov. Brian Sandoval's recent proclamation regarding the testing of third-graders in reading is laudable, but if implemented, it does become a significant unfunded mandate. While it may be possible to put into service a testing program from existing resources for a reasonable amount of money, what does increase the funding level are the resources in both materials and personnel to carry out the remediation programs necessary to bring nonproficient students to proficient status.

I taught in the public school system in Florida while their program was administered. Such programs are easy to conduct when there are relatively few students identified as nonproficient. However, when a significant percentage of a school's third-grade population is shown to be nonproficient, the question becomes: What do we do with such a large number of students? Do you make them into a class of 3.5-graders?

Usually this is not the case because there is no such designation allowed by district, state or federal standards. Consequently, students must be identified as either repeating third grade or as fourth-graders. Also, many of these students may be at grade level in other subjects, particularly math. They may have difficulty with word problems, yet be very competent in computational skills. Should these students be required to repeat all of the third grade? If just reading, who instructs them and what materials are used?

Some schools have set up "academies" where groups of students are pulled from regular classes to attend intensive sessions in reading or possibly math. Who teaches these classes? In middle and high schools they may be taught by teachers willing to "sell their prep," but that option is often not available to elementary teachers. What classes are these students in for the rest of the day -- third grade or fourth grade?

Are they split depending on their performance in other subjects? What about the time they are absent from their regular classes? Are these students tested only once a year? What about those who scored close to the cut-off score and only require a minimal amount of remediation versus those who may not reach the proficiency score after an entire semester or year of remediation? Do these students stay in third grade for a third year?

It is also not possible to ignore the physical and emotional aspects of retaining students in the third grade. The physical and maturity levels in students show marked differences during this period of development. Third grade classes are often composed of students with a wide variety of ages and physical and emotional development. Retaining some students only makes this discrepancy more evident and requires careful attention from parents, teachers and administrators.

Should students be proficient in reading at the end of third grade? Yes, of course. The basic problem of ensuring this is that schools are trying to implement a criterion- or proficiency-based system into an educational structure operating on an outdated chronological age model. Once again we are trying to fit the square peg into the round hole, and this never works without altering the peg or the hole.

Thomas W. Fisher

Las Vegas

Sooner the better

To the editor:

Your last editorial of 2010, "Another year in the books," pretty well sums it up.

As a taxpayer being buried alive by useless government officials, taxes, waste, laws, rules, regulations and other assorted baloney, I think it's time to get our heads out of the sand and put a stop to the nonsense.

Nationwide, there are more than 500,000 elected officials, 25 million bureaucrats and government employees -- and all they do is demand more and more from a dwindling base of productive citizens.

The change I want is less government. The sooner, the better!



Tax, tax, tax

To the editor:

I read with interest your coverage of Gov. Brian Sandoval's inauguration, as I was out of town for the holidays. I also read with interest the editorial on his address.

I have only one question: When did "tax" become a curse word?



Inferior product

To the editor:

The recent shake-up of the Review-Journal's management was intended, we are told, to restore credibility to the newspaper. But nothing has changed. We folks who shell out good money for the Review-Journal are still being subjected to the inferior product of its opinion columnists.

How long must we endure the blustering bufas of Thomas Mitchell, the dotty burplings of Sherman Frederick and the squirrel-barking madness of Superman's nemesis, Vin Suprynowicz?

Add to this the callow crowing of the Review-Journal's newest clone ideologue, the bantamweight Glenn Cook.

One can only imagine these fellows sitting in the Review-Journal's lunchroom, guffawing and passing around a well-thumbed copy of "The Wit and Wisdom of Mallard Fillmore."

Instead of an antidote for the Ayn Rand poisoning, we suffer from this local pack of faux-libertarians (who, curiously, never defend separation of church and state).

In addition, the Review-Journal regularly hawks the excreta of bile-spewing Phyllis Schlafly, political prostitute Ann Coulter and convicted felon-clown Oliver North.

The Review-Journal editorial page consistently underestimates -- and insults -- the intelligence of its readers.

Barry S. Goold

Las Vegas