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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 13, 2009 at 6:00 PM

Education reform

Don’t forget female students

On Tuesday, President Obama proposed changes to our educational system to give our nation’s students a competitive advantage over students from other countries [“Obama presses for longer school year,” News, March 11]. Here’s how we can really blow away the competition: Encourage girls to excel in science and math.

Girls today hold unlimited potential for solving the world’s greatest problems, from harnessing alternative energy sources to finding a cure for cancer. Yet women continue to be underrepresented in these vital career fields. Women constitute 46 percent of the U.S. work force but hold only 27 percent of science and engineering jobs. Girls excel in math and science courses and continue to make historic gains, yet few pursue careers in these fields.

As Obama stated, top-notch teachers are key to our nation’s academic success. But programs beyond the traditional scope of the classroom also are essential for our students, especially girls, to shine. One such program is Expanding Your Horizons (EYH). On Saturday (March 14), 410 middle-school girls will gather at Seattle University for the 21st annual Seattle EYH conference. They will participate in fun, hands-on workshops taught by female professionals working in science- and math-based careers.

The conference will spark girls’ curiosity, show them something they won’t learn in school, and plant the seed for achievement in math and science for many years to come. Someday, one of these girls may solve our nation’s energy crisis, win the Nobel Prize, or encourage a new generation of girls to be world-class scientists and mathematicians. That’s a competitive advantage indeed.

— Ann McNally and Emeline Cokelet Meneken,

Seattle Expanding Your Horizons

Need is there; money is not

If what you wish the Legislature to support is all-day kindergarten, 21st-century technology, a six-period high-school schedule and measure student achievement, you have my support, too. [“Legislators need the political will to reshape Washington’s schools,” Lynne K. Varner column, Opinion, March 11.]

Expanding the school day will take money, now, not at some unspecified future date. Measuring student achievement is being done now, though we seem to be at loose ends as to how to continue.

I can’t support performance pay without seeing the specifics of the performance criteria. I have seen many “merit pay” schemes in the past 39 years. Most have been useless for improving the delivery system of education and all have withered on the vine for lack of continued financial support. With that as a history of performance pay in Washington state, I would oppose it.

All of this is an exercise in futility. There’s no money to do anything. We’re going to be cutting the daylights out of most everything in order to survive the decline in revenue. Putting it all on the back burner for now is not a failure of leadership; it’s just plain prudent conservatism.

— Kenneth A. Mortland, Bothell

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