Letters to the LA Times
May 15, 2010: Too good to ignore
How many times must we learn that if the bar is set high, students will strive to reach it?
The late Jaime Escalante showed this country that students from East L.A. could pass the AP math exam. Yet we still let minority students in the poor areas of L.A. go unchallenged.
When students are bored, they will find something to do, and it usually involves trouble of some kind. Challenge them, and students will exceed our expectations.
Thank goodness for Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which is beginning to seek out gifted students in a group of historically low-performing schools. We need to challenge all students to achieve their potential.
As a former gifted-program coordinator at my elementary school, I disagree with the underlying notion of the article: that LAUSD has not sought out more gifted students in poor schools because of racism and classism.
There are other influences that maintain the status quo. First, the process that LAUSD goes by to "flag out" gifted students is antiquated and inefficient. The time required to maintain this process lowers it as a priority at any school.
Another reason that lower socioeconomic-area schools do not participate in the process is that they receive federal Title I money, which surpasses any amount the district appropriates for gifted programs. These schools are far less motivated to find alternative avenues of funding.
As a teacher, I believe that all children have the potential to succeed. Attention to "enhanced" learning opportunities should begin and continue at home. Libraries, museums, nature walks and plain old serious discussion are freely available to all. The major difference in the higher socioeconomic-area schools is parent advocacy. Let's remember: The best things in life are free.
Gifted students are special-needs students, yet the state sends schools just $25 apiece for gifted programs?
I am a teacher at a middle school in the Fontana Unified District that has a gifted and talented magnet program. These students flourish in classes with their peers, and they need teachers with special certification to teach them.
The occasional "field trip" or a few pull-out activities do not meet the needs of these students. Education of special-needs students, including gifted students, needs to be more equitable.
Education is a calling
Re "A better way to build a teacher," Opinion, May 10
The title of Jonathan Zimmerman's Op-Ed uses the right phrase — "build a teacher" — but one has to build onsite, not at the lumberyard, and even a craftsman needs high-quality supplies.
After retiring from 25 years as a high school teacher and 21 years as a U.S. Air Force officer, I wonder whether skilled "teaching" (not test preparing), like effective "leadership" (not management), is learned or innate.
It certainly is not simply another academic course. The key elements are: a love of children and a calling to teach them; a love of learning and a passion to share it; real character and a commitment to follow it.
Beyond that, all that's required is an environment that encourages rather than stifles. A master's degree in "education" is irrelevant.
If we are to improve the quality of K-12 education across this country, our focus needs to be on effective teaching, not on alternative teacher certification, as Zimmerman suggests.
We are fighting to ensure that effective teacher preparation programs are part of a national commitment to school improvement. Unfortunately, while we talk about quality, the U.S. Department of Education is cutting funding for its Teacher Quality Partnership grants, a program that does exactly what Zimmerman calls for.
If our goal is to provide "high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers," as Education Secretary Arne Duncan says, we cannot turn our backs on our teachers colleges. We don't institute lasting school improvement by tinkering around the edges. Our nearly 800 members are committed to long-term progress.
The writer is president of the American Assn. of Colleges for Teacher Education.