Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

Opinion | State’s ‘Misguided Takeover’ of Houston Schools

More from our inbox:

To the Editor:

Re “Anger Rises in Houston Over the State’s Schools Takeover” (news article, Aug. 13):

The politically motivated and downright misguided takeover of the Houston Independent School District sets a deplorable example for struggling school districts nationwide.

The solution to poorly performing schools should not be to close libraries and force misbehaving students to watch videos in those repurposed spaces. It should be to expand libraries into centers of learning and to recruit dynamic educators who can, through their passion and skills, engage students who are acting out for a reason: because they’ve been underserved and shortchanged.

To place them in closed libraries and force them to watch videos of their classes only confirms for those students that they’re troublemakers and that reading lacks value. A punitive approach will not work.

Superintendent Mike Miles, a former Army ranger “who has no official certification,” is better suited to run an Army base, not schools. His plan to compensate teachers for improved scores on standardized tests is also imprudent, for such tests provide a limited measure of students’ aptitude, are often biased and narrow the scope of classroom instruction.

Assessment of student understanding and skills must be more comprehensive, using a wider range of measures, such as performance-based and authentic evaluations that mirror real-life situations.

The new state-run administration’s plan to shift “time-consuming tasks” is also unwise. Staff members who do not teach classes should not be the ones grading work or writing lesson plans. Teachers are the only ones equipped to grade work and write lesson plans. It’s part of their job, however laborious those tasks may be.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s takeover of the Houston Independent School District may be radical, but it’s clearly political and inequitable. And it won’t work.

Gary J. Whitehead
Tenafly, N.J.
The writer is a high school English teacher.

To the Editor:

Mike Miles, the new superintendent of schools, plans to address the achievement gaps between Houston students and those in the rest of the state by focusing on improving reading and math scores. His strategy includes the elimination of a number of school libraries. If that isn’t counterintuitive, I’m not sure what is!

Perhaps instead of prioritizing standardized test scores, Mr. Miles should spend a few minutes talking to one of the librarians he is laying off about how they instill a love of reading in children.

Eve Wolfsohn
New York
The writer is a school librarian.

To the Editor:

Two things stand out in this article.

First, far-right politicians in Texas have decided that if you can’t remove books from school libraries, you can close the libraries to achieve the same result.

Second, far-right politicians preach parental empowerment and control of schools until that empowerment conflicts with the far-right agenda. In this case the governor replaced the elected school board and administrators who didn’t support his conservative vision of education.

Greg Vouros
Seattle

A Trump Plea Deal, to End This Nightmare?

To the Editor:

I am a proud liberal Democrat and one of those Harvard Law School graduates Republicans love to hate. Yet as much as I think Donald Trump deserves to spend significant jail time, I harbor serious doubts about what it will take to get there. The country and Mr. Trump himself might be best served by a plea deal, if that is even possible.

The country badly needs to be rid of Mr. Trump and Trumpism. The Republican Party badly needs a restart. And even Mr. Trump must now realize the likelihood that one of the impending trials could well result in jail time. There’s nothing like the thought of a jail cell to focus the mind.

We can expect years of little else in the press — years of appeals and most likely an appeal to a Republican-dominated Supreme Court on the meaning of free speech. America needs less of this, not more.

Is a plea deal possible? Normally prosecutors would insist on an admission of guilt. But we could settle for less to be rid of this constant and continual stain on our national and international reputation as well as a divided public and a paralyzed national politics.

I would settle for an admission of responsibility for inappropriate actions and inactions, a bar from seeking political office, and home confinement. It’s not adequate, but it could be enough. Otherwise, the national consensus could crack, if it has not already done so, and that’s not good for anyone.

It’s a divisive and a dangerous time and needs to end. This could be the quickest way.

David Love
Newton Centre, Mass.

On Maui, Greed Amid Tragedy

To the Editor:

We’ve all heard the term ambulance chasers, referring to unsavory personal injury lawyers who hover at accident scenes waiting to find victims to represent at the worst possible times. Apparently a similar occurrence is happening in Lahaina on the island of Maui, with a slight difference. Instead of lawyers, repugnant realtors and developers are drooling over the possible opportunity to buy property from victims of the tragic firestorm that reduced this historic town to ashes.

Is it any wonder that the locals are not asking but demanding that these leeches leave? If these situations aren’t nauseating and cruel, what is? With more than 100 dead and more than a thousand still missing, the prediction by some bureaucrats that Lahaina can be rebuilt in six months is downright laughable, if not so sad.

Donate to the proper charities and then leave the folks alone, to search for the living and to grieve the dead, as they live one day at a time. I would imagine that the word rebuild is at this juncture far from residents’ minds. Lahaina Strong.

Bruce G. Levitta
Phoenix
The writer is a former police investigator on the island of Oahu.

Death on a Mountain

To the Editor:

Re “Climber Defends Finishing K2 Ascent After Finding Dying Porter on a Trail” (news article, Aug. 13):

The circumstances of the death of the Pakistani porter were tragically inevitable. Mountains have now become racetracks where clients vie to see who can climb them the fastest.

Guiding clients on big mountains, and especially K2, almost has a “Lord of the Flies” meets “Bonfire of the Vanities” edge to it.

It’s one thing for clients to accept the risks and their fate if things go sideways, but it’s another when the people who get them there are literally stepped over as they lie dying and sacrificed so that the client’s prized summit can be another notch in their belt.

Jon Heshka
Kamloops, British Columbia
The writer is an associate professor and co-chair of the adventure studies department at Thompson Rivers University.

Camp Memories

To the Editor:

Re “The Fleeting Magic of Summer Camp,” by Josephine Sittenfeld (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 13):

Ms. Sittenfeld’s camp photographs made me remember the stinky sneakers, the swimming hole, picnics in a country graveyard, the bottle of ketchup consumed by six omnivores at every table during every meal, the smell of canvas tents, the sway of my bunk bed, 70 years later.

What a treat! Thank you, Ms. Sittenfeld.

Eleanor Sterling
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Source: Read Full Article

Related Posts