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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words

June 4, 2010 at 4:02 PM

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Education: reading, walking and rating

Posted by Letters editor

Readying kids to read

As “Read it and Weep” [editorial, Opinion, June 1] described, far too few Washington third-graders are proficient in reading.

The Kids Count Special report says “There is no substitute for the parent or primary caregiver’s role as a child’s first teacher, best coach, and most concerned advocate. The challenge of helping families falls to all of us.”

The solution must begin in infancy. Kids Count calls Reach Out and Read (ROR) an “exemplary program.” ROR helps doctors promote early literacy with our youngest families. In 33 ROR programs in medical offices across King County, doctors prescribe brand new books and encourage families to read together, starting when children are 6 months old. A Department of Early Learning survey found that parents want early learning information from their child’s health provider more than anywhere else. When doctors encourage reading at home and family trips to the library, parents respond.

From Tacoma to Centralia to Spokane, partners such as United Way, Rotary and hospitals are coming together to support local ROR programs; recognizing the value of leveraging doctors to promote early literacy skills. In this “most literate city” in Washington’s largest county, we welcome partnerships to engage doctors and help children arrive at school ready to learn to read.

— Jill Sells, director of Read Washington State, Seattle

Lake Washington School District shuffling students

Superintendent Chip Kimball and the Lake Washington School District School Board have developed a temporary plan to address the student population changes though even they would admit it is only temporary [“Fast-growing district to shuffle students,” [NWThursday, May 20].

While parents seem to support the majority of this plan, it still has significant pitfalls that could have been avoided if Kimball had initially reached out to the parent community rather than notifying it of a final decision through a mailer in student backpacks.

For example, the district representatives appear to have not considered the environmental, wellness or safety concerns of students in their decision to force A.G. Bell Elementary students to attend what will be Finn Hill Middle School.

An extremely safe 17- minute walk from A.G. Bell to Kirkland Middle School becomes a hazardous walk of more than an hour over roads without sidewalks and along extremely busy streets. This is a significant safety issue that was entirely ignored and has parents very concerned.

The most glaring omission is that switching A.G. Bell Elementary students from Kirkland Middle School to Finn Hill is not a necessary change to address population changes. My daughter and son need to attend Juanita High School for the good of the district and we support that decision. But requiring my children to spend an hour every day commuting in our car when they could have walked to Kirkland Middle School for class is difficult for my kids and me to comprehend.

Even more bewildering is that this decision does nothing to address the needs of the district. Despite how this process evolved, I am extremely hopeful that a compromise could be reached allowing the concerns of the parents to be addressed while meeting the needs of the Lake Washington School District.

— Johnmichael Monteith, Kirkland

Teacher assessments should be holistic

The assessment of teachers has been a hot topic lately, and most of the ideas out there make me cringe [“Pioneering better ways to rate our educators,” editorial, Opinion, May 26].

It is not because they would not be revealing or helpful in administrative decision making, but because I believe most of them would fail to capture what everyone is seeking to understand about the practice. Teaching is part art, part luck and a whole lot of hard work. When it is all said and done, however, it is largely about relationships between student, material and educator.

The Times’ suggestion to have “students rate teachers, perhaps through straightforward but illuminating questions” was the absolute best idea I have heard so far and an evaluative process that I, an educator for 21 years, would welcome.

Student voice is a component of teacher assessment that is absolutely necessary and too often overlooked. The practice of incorporating students’ opinions should be thankfully included in public and private settings alike.

— Anastasia Samuelsen, Seattle

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