LETTERS: Teacher development key to success

To the editor:

I would like to commend the Review-Journal for its recent attention to the issues surrounding education reform. If we are going to make progress in improving our schools, it will take a communitywide effort; the media will play an important part in helping to inform the community at large about the challenges our schools face and the different options we have in tackling those challenges.

With the hope that a well-informed discussion will lead to meaningful policy improvements, I would like to clarify the position of Nevada Succeeds regarding “Read by 3” and social promotion, as they relate to the Review-Journal’s editorial on the subjects (“Lifting literacy,” Tuesday Review-Journal). The fact is that the abundance of evidence on the subject of retention vs. social promotion makes it clear that neither policy has a positive effect on student achievement. What the evidence does tell us is that early assessment and targeted intervention from the earliest of ages is what actually has a positive impact on student achievement.

Based on this evidence, Nevada Succeeds is of the opinion that neither retention nor social promotion is a necessary plank in an effective literacy policy. We are urging all parties to first consider the wisdom of early assessment and targeted intervention, and second, to explore a fundamental transformation in how we prepare and support teachers through professional development and our university system here in Nevada.

Nevada Succeeds came away from the recent Nevada Literacy Summit with a different understanding than the Review-Journal did regarding what the majority of the experts in attendance agreed upon. While it is true that retention was brought up briefly by three of our 21 featured experts and advocates, the unmistakable message of the day was that there is nothing more critical to improving literacy rates than having an effective teacher in the classroom.

More important, the summit made clear that there are proven strategies that make teachers better, and that it is possible for Nevada to get better results for our kids by ensuring we have more well-prepared teachers in our system. The fundamentals of teaching children to read are fairly well-established. That is not to say that they are easy to master, but they can be effectively taught and transferred, as long as teachers are receiving adequate training at the university level and strong professional development once they’ve been placed in a building.

The problem in Nevada, especially in Clark County, is that the sheer number of students in need of literacy intervention strategies has surpassed the capacity of our teachers. Our focus needs to be on building this capacity through a variety of approaches, so as to reach every student who needs these critical interventions. In our opinion, this is the defining issue that must be addressed if we are going to truly make a difference in student achievement, and ensure that every child in Nevada can read on grade level by third grade.



The writer is president of Nevada Succeeds.

UNLV and the wealthy

To the editor:

Regarding Steve Sebelius’ March 21 column (“It’s time to decide what we want from UNLV”), Clark County is the home of more than half a dozen of the wealthiest people in the United States, including one at $38 billion and counting. Yet we can’t fund a Tier 1 research program at UNLV.

Obviously, there’s not enough chump change around to leave a legacy. What a shame.



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