Saturday, January 16, 2010


LA Times Letters to the Editor 1/16

Charter schools -- yes and maybe

Re “An unplanned revolution in L.A.’s public schools,” Jan. 10

What a fascinating time to be in education, and what a wonderful job The Times has done keeping readers informed about the charter school movement, especially here in Los Angeles.

I'm a 6th- and 7th-grade humanities teacher at the "small, scrappy" New Los Angeles Charter School. Though we are indeed small, and our school is carved out of a church space, we are also mighty.

In our first year, we received an API of 830. Our parental involvement is impressive. Our board of directors is diverse, talented and committed. My students amaze me every day.

Our location and our open lottery have allowed for an incredibly diverse student body. Our mission is aligned with a new vision for our city and our world.

In a time of great uncertainty, I know one thing: I believe in this school.

Thank you for keeping the public informed about the direction education is taking.

Stephanie Luty Widmer
Los Angeles

Kudos to The Times' education writers for their engaging review of charter schools, the rising appeal of these human-scale places and their potential for boosting kids' achievement. But it is misleading to claim in a subheadline -- based on a single year of data -- that "overall they outscore traditional campuses."

The Times compared 2008-09 test scores between students attending charters and their counterparts attending regular public schools. But the advantage for charter kids is likely due to the fact that charters enroll fewer students with learning disabilities and fewer kids from non-English speaking homes, as your article notes.

It's not valid to infer that charter organizations are lifting learning curves without taking into account those schools' demographics, or without tracking student growth over time.

LAUSD chief Ray Cortines is devising a sound evaluation plan for the district's new charters-and-choice program. Hopefully, it will be designed more carefully than the crude analysis attempted by The Times.

Bruce Fuller
The writer is a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley.

Booted out by Beverly Hills

Re “Board hears clashing views,” Jan. 13

Beverly Hills' excuse for kicking nonresident students out of its schools -- that soon the city will no longer receive state aid based on attendance -- is the reddest of herrings ever presented by this island of wealth and privilege.

Having lived in L.A. nearly all of my 66 years, I can say with some authority that most of the money collected in Beverly Hills property taxes comes from property owners who make their money either directly or indirectly off of a multitude of nonresident shoppers and service-seekers.

It is divine to profit mightily off nonresidents, but an intolerable burden to share its renowned classrooms with students not lucky enough to have been born to those living within the city's confines.

As a country, we've just been subjected to an overdose of Wall Street greed. Now we get to witness an overdose of Beverly Hills-style greed.

Steven M. Goodman

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