November 22, 2013 at 7:02 AM
Recognize when a student needs help
Thank you for highlighting the issue of school attendance [“Attendance counts,” page one, Nov. 21].
I am a clinician with Sound Mental Health and the clients I see almost all struggle with regular attendance.
Noticing this is the first step to flagging that something more is going on with this student. Every behavior is a form of communication and schools need to recognize that a punitive response will not solve the problem.
November 18, 2013 at 7:35 PM
Allows students to develop skills both in and out of STEM fields
Lynne K. Varner illustrated the need for improved STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in her recent column [“Better STEM education, training needed for mismatched workers,” Opinion, Nov. 15].
But I do not fully agree with her reasoning. We do not need our schools to become STEM education factories, providing an assembly line of students to fill jobs. We need to provide students with comprehensive educational opportunities that allow them to develop a wide variety of skills, both in and out of the STEM fields.
November 18, 2013 at 7:36 AM
Technology is pervasive in our society and students will benefit from the exposure
Kudos to Microsoft for their global YouthSpark initiative and for the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program that it is bringing to our schools [“How to prepare students for computer science careers,” Opinion, Nov. 14].
I agree with Lori Forte Harnick. In today’s environment, computer science classes should be offered in our schools. In our society, where technology is pervasive, most of our students will benefit from exposure to computer science while they find and pursue their own dreams.
November 11, 2013 at 7:15 AM
Crime prevention happens in the first five years of a person’s life
I commend The Times for highlighting the importance of early learning and home-visiting programs [“Invest in early childhood learning,” Editorial, Nov. 7].
As noted in the editorial, neuroscience has documented the dramatic development of a child’s brain in the first three years of life and that development determines much of what happens in subsequent years. Every day, law enforcement deals with the consequence of failing to invest in our youngest children. Jails, prisons and juvenile detention facilities are filled with individuals with mental-health, substance abuse and anger-management issues (and no high-school diploma).
The Times mentions juvenile justice as one place we can save money if we invest in early learning. But the savings go far beyond juvenile justice. Washington spends $842 million a year to incarcerate nearly 17,000 adult criminals. Research shows that high-quality early learning programs lead to fewer behavioral problems, improved school readiness, reduced special education, fewer high-school dropouts and ultimately lower rates of crime and incarceration.
We will never arrest and incarcerate our way out of crime. Crime prevention happens in the first five years of a person’s life. If we invest there, we will not only save dollars, we will save lives as well.
Paul D. Ayers, chief of police, Issaquah
November 10, 2013 at 7:07 AM
Cruel to redistribute students who’ve established themselves at their respective high schools
Last Friday, Seattle Schools recommended extensive boundary changes to middle school enrollment, some dramatically affecting northeast Seattle schools [“Saying no to school-boundaries plan,” NWThursday, Nov. 8]. There are many questions one might have when viewing the proposed changes.
First and foremost is the wisdom — psychologically, practically and environmentally — of sending a child who lives less than a quarter mile from Eckstein Middle School to a middle school more than two miles away. How could the district not expect that such nonsensical boundaries would not lead to controversy? Either the district is insensitive to parent and student concerns or, perhaps worse, oblivious about the impact of the proposed changes.
Most outrageous is the district’s refusal to grandfather current Eckstein students. It’s cruel to pingpong a student who has spent one or two years honing a sport or participating in jazz band away from the school where he or she has formed those skills, relationships and friendships. Eckstein is renowned for its autism spectrum program that helps students on the spectrum adapt to the social challenges of middle school.
As a parent, I have quietly gone along with the many changes and missteps of Seattle Schools in the five years my son has been a student. I understand education is underfunded and the district is large — these are significant challenges. Yet they do not excuse the poor process, lack of compassion and arbitrary timeline in the current proposal.
Leslie Edith Phillips, Seattle
November 9, 2013 at 7:02 AM
Year-long evaluations will give more accurate results
Just as students’ educational growth and ability cannot be fully measured by a state test, a teacher’s ability cannot be measured by the students’ test scores [“Not many teachers can be evaluated using state test scores,” Online, Nov. 4].
Our society is stuck in a fast-paced mindset: the faster the better. In order to fully measure students’ and teachers’ progress in the classroom, it is going to take more time and effort than bubbling in an answer sheet.
Using students’ test scores as the measure for a teacher’s ability to teach only encourages teachers to put a heavy amount of stress and importance on the testing material. This takes away from other subjects and information, such as history, art and sciences. However, if a teacher does put an equal amount of attention on all subjects, the knowledge that students gain in the areas that are not tested would never be acknowledged (if using the standardized testing method to measure a teacher’s quality.)
A more accurate way to measure both students’ and teachers’ work during a school year is portfolio evaluations. Each student’s portfolio would include a variety of work from all subjects throughout the year. A non-biased panel would evaluate the portfolios. The evaluations would then help measure the quality of the teacher.
Nicole Odegard, Bellingham
November 6, 2013 at 7:36 PM
More sleep will help students learn and stay focused
As a founding member of Start School Later-Seattle (SSL), I would like to make a correction to the schools should start later op-ed piece [“The school day should start later,” Opinion, Nov. 1].
Our organization advocates for secondary schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. beginning in September 2014. This position is supported by most School Board members, the Seattle Council PTSA and the approximately 3,000 Seattle residents who have signed our petition.
One way to accomplish this without cost would be to flip elementary and secondary bus schedules. A survey of 700 families that we conducted in April showed support for a flipped schedule if elementary schools started no earlier than 8 a.m. If bus schedules are flipped, SSL would advocate for a 9 a.m. start for secondary schools.
We agree completely with the authors’ points about the negative impacts on teens’ learning and health caused by ignoring their biology, and regarding documented improvements seen in districts that have moved to later starts.
Cynthia Jatul, Seattle
November 3, 2013 at 7:05 AM
Help every student reach his or her potential
The Constitution included wishful thinking. Everyone is not created equal: physically, mentally or socially [“Challenging students to succeed,” Opinion, Oct. 28].
In a time of slavery, the framers of the Constitution removed anti-slavery language. Today, most people might agree that we have an obligation to bring people to their full potential, no matter their circumstances, so that there is a mutual benefit between individuals and the rest of society.
Many school systems, including the one in which I was a student in New York City in the 1930s, tracked students so that the less capable were given extra help to achieve their potential, and the most capable were permitted to express themselves beyond the usual curriculum. Yes, there was some stigma attached to those in the lower track, but it never became individualized and I, on the upper track, benefited from mentoring by those above me. The system was accepted as beneficial by students and parents — it appears unlikely that we suffered unduly from having 40 students in a classroom or that our desks were bolted to the floor.
Things are tougher now. We have more institutional and self-segregation, greater wealth disparity and widening political ideological differences. And, in Washington, an indifference to required state funding of K-12. But tracking, in order to help every student to reach his or her potential and leave no student behind, is imperative.
Herb Curl, Seattle
October 30, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Challenge is defined by the student and their expectations
While I agree with Kevin Welner that traditional forms of tracking do more harm than good, like many education policy people, Welner is oversimplifying a complex issue [“Challenging students to succeed,” Opinion, Oct. 28].
He says we have a choice for struggling students: throw them in classes that go nowhere (low tracking), or include them in challenging classes.
This is a false choice; these are not the only two options. In a good school, there are multiple avenues on which students can progress academically. Not every student is ready for AP. I teach AP chemistry, and I know my business, but AP is not the only high-performing curriculum.
“High expectations” is an edu-policy buzzword that means nothing. The truth is, any class that challenges a student — wherever they are developmentally — is a class that has high expectations. The key is to create pathways that meet students where they are so they can grow at a pace that will produce success later.
Dan Magill, Seattle
October 22, 2013 at 7:33 AM
Would you hire a two- or three-year graduate lawyer?
Kudos to Jane Korn, dean of Gonzaga Law School for her analysis of the suggestion to reduce the law-school curriculum to two years from three [“A law school degree in 2 years?” Opinion, Oct. 16]. She is right on the money.
Since any shortening of the prerequisite hours of instruction is out of the question, 24 consecutive months of schooling, i.e. no vacation, is the only alternative.
Wouldn’t it be awkward to see a legal administrator with a four-year B.S. degree work with the two-year graduate attorney?
President Obama and some academics proposed this as a way to reduce student expense for legal education and raise enrollments. Interestingly, Justice Anthony Kennedy saw this as a compromising effect to the very foundation of law, which he called “language of the law.” The decision belongs to the aspiring future counselors to be or not to be one.
Dee Tezelli, Seattle
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