To the editor:
Greg Barone’s commentary in Sunday’s Viewpoints section is testament to what many of us believe is true about our public schools: There is a lack of standards for students to attain.
In his essay, Mr. Barone states that “district policy was to move students forward, regardless of whether they had passed the prerequisite course.” This will cause citizens and parents to wonder whether there are either weak standards — or none at all — for students to meet or surpass in order to advance. It also makes us wonder if we are truly getting quality education services for our tax dollars.
I think not. It appears that there are a lot of paid educators in our school district who are not doing what they are being paid to do.
Having either weak academic standards or standards that are not enforced is as bad as having no standards at all. Furthermore, moving students forward without their having achieved academic goals and standards will not position students for success. Instead, this senseless and stupid policy sets them up for failure after they leave high school.
But, then, it will no longer be their teachers’ problem, will it?
S.G. Hayes Sr.
To the editor:
The essay by teacher Greg Barone (“Mass-produced ignorance”) regarding his frustration with unprepared geometry students certainly paints a grim picture of the weaknesses of the “system” created by the Clark County School District in “passing” math students on to the next level. In explaining how this all comes to pass, however, Mr. Barone “passes over” a step in his own procedures as if it were perfectly understandable: He says that he gives student homework “a glance.” His reasoning is that “it is highly unlikely any teacher is meticulously grading hundreds of homework papers every day.”
Students know that. They turn in homework that is shoddy, copied and incorrect (as Mr. Barone says) knowing it will “pad” their final grade. (In Mr. Barone’s class, homework apparently counts for 30 percent of the total grade.) If he were meticulous in grading their homework, he would be able to discover and discipline those students who copy and do shoddy, careless work. But he would also be able to see the mistakes of those students who earnestly try — and ultimately he would help them to learn. Kids who want to learn will try again and again, until they get it right. I know: I teach the same kids that Mr. Barone teaches at Western High School.
The main obstacle that both Mr. Barone and I face is that we each have approximately 200 students. Grading homework takes so much time that I am always behind. In fact, at the beginning of the school year I wrote to school district Superintendent Walt Rulffes and tried to explain this dilemma to him. He turned my letter over to one of his assistants, who promptly turned it over to her assistant, who ended up reprimanding me for a comment I’d made about asking my mother to help me with grading papers, even though I’d only said that for effect.
Ultimately, I had to suck it up and forget about my letter — and about getting any help from the district.
But I know that my students learn from their mistakes. When they get their homework back from me, they see what to do to correct their mistakes. They learn.
Contrary to what Mr. Barone might have you think, they are not a hopeless cause. They’re just a part of a system that creates cynical, often hopeless teachers who eventually give up on them.
Nancy Feldman Maheras
THE WRITER IS A CLARK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT TEACHER.
Democrats and Iraq
To the editor:
The Democrats’ strategy is for defeat in Iraq without having to take responsibility for it. They claim that they were elected to implement a strategy of pulling out, despite the fact that most polls show the American public does not support such a move.
Less than two years ago, Sens. Joe Biden and Harry Reid called on the Pentagon to send more troops to Iraq to fight the insurgency. Now, they oppose what they previously had demanded.
With the possible exception of a Jeb Bush presidency, the worst scenario for the Democrats would be a stable, democratic Iraq that sides with the West in the war on terror.
To the editor:
In his Sunday column, Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick wrote of Nevada’s Sen. Harry Reid: “What Harry is really saying is that ‘victory’ means hightailing it out of Iraq.”
I remember President Reagan wisely hightailing the Marines out of Lebanon in 1984 after that situation spun wildly out of control.
Regarding Iraq, Mr. Frederick announces: “I happen to be in the ‘we-can-still-win’ camp.” Mr. Frederick says we can accomplish this “by supplying more troops, money and good old American resolve” (insert recording of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir humming “America the Beautiful” here).
“Good old American resolve”? Except for the scale, what’s the difference between Lebanon and what the Democrats want for Iraq?