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Originally published Friday, December 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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"This support is undermined by media portrayal of elitist or racist culture in APP."

A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

Advanced thinkers

A class of people who must submit to a primitive test

Editor, The Times:

As the parent of a child in Lowell Elementary, I am concerned both by the tone of the report presented by the University of Virginia team and The Times's read on it ["Gifted program favors whites, report says," Times, Local News, Dec. 4, and "Holding on, and helping academic achievement," editorial, Dec. 7].

The underrepresentation of black and Hispanic students in gifted programs is a national problem and not in any way limited to Seattle.

A major problem APP and Spectrum have is reliance on the [cognitive abilities test] CogAT-6 battery for admission to the advanced learning programs. Like the IQ tests to which it is similar, CogAT has a documented bias toward Caucasian and Asian students. Its existence has been proven time and time again with a wide variety of cognitive tests. More broad-spectrum methods have to be used to bring in students.

Everybody would like APP to look more like Seattle as a whole, and if you read the full report, you will find that a lot of people have been thinking about this problem, and the report provides some good ideas as to how this can be addressed moving forward.

While neither I nor anyone else will say there are no racists in a group of 1,500 students and their parents, the idea that there is institutional racism in the program is absurd.

— Jeremy Anderson, Seattle

Bootstrap's on the other foot

The problem [of racial disparity] continues after APP into AP (Advanced Placement) high-school classes, another club for white, affluent families.

At least 55 percent of Roosevelt students need a level playing field that children in AP with stay-at-home/"hovercraft"-parents/Laurelhurst-privilege don't think a freaking minute about.

And that's one of the Seattle Public Schools' poster-child schools, Roosevelt. I'm at a boiling point.

I am not anti-APP or anti-AP. I am for opportunities for all and if we have only enough dough to fund one program, I want it to be for the kids falling through the cracks, as I believe the others will do fine in general with their notably larger variety of options.

Ideally, I want individual learning plans and high levels of achievement for each in their own way but, like I said, given that apparently everyone cannot be served, I'll help the most vulnerable first and leave the affluent kids "behind." We all know they'll do just fine.

— Kate Martin, mother of two sons at Roosevelt High School, Seattle

The faculty of reason

In "Gifted program favors whites... " the inequities in identification of students of color were blamed on the program itself, rather than seen as systemic at the district level. Changes in recruitment are being made, but will better succeed with support from neighborhood schools. This support is undermined by media portrayal of elitist or racist culture in APP.

APP access is mostly based on parent nomination. There is no districtwide testing.

Recommendations are due in October, when teachers have known their students only a few weeks. Families need information on navigating the process.

I'm a Seattle Public Schools substitute teacher, and get around to many schools. I've met kids who might be well-served by gifted programs, but teachers weren't clear on the process for nomination. Teachers have told me they wouldn't want to pressure students.

A principal explained to me the disincentive for nominating students: In light of No Child Left Behind, they must retain their top scorers. This is illogical. If the 1 percent-2 percent of statistical outliers receive services, it's a handful of kids from each school. Presumably, the school still has lots of bright kids.

Troubling as it is to hear of students of color who feel isolated in APP, I have also seen bright kids of color bullied in their home schools — called know-it-alls, showoffs and geeks — until they learn to undervalue their intellect.

Dr. Martin Luther King graduated high school at age 15. He was accelerated in accordance with his abilities, rather than kept in boredom, frustration and ridicule just to raise the test scores of his school.

— Sidney Deering, Seattle

Streetcar blamed for ire

The kindness of strangers

I had my first South Lake Union streetcar experience on Inauguration Wednesday. Although all of the fantastic local news media stars were out, along with some free coffee, the ride was pretty dull. I will sleep better tonight knowing that tourists will be treated to car dealerships and smut shops on their way to Lake Union's fine array of restaurants and parking lots. Add the fact that the round trip took nearly an hour and a half and you have got yourself a winner. I think the streetcar may turn out, in the long run, to be a great idea, but right now it is not worth the price of admission (which was free).

Let it be known to all of the people of Seattle that this glorious revolution in metropolitan transportation is simply a different environment within which people can accost one another.

As the eager riders packed the streetcar, some of us dared to sit in the lightly cushioned seats. Some old, some young, but none actually needing to get anywhere. I considered letting a senior have my seat. But the streetcar was packed, and someone would likely have been hurt in the operation.

An elderly woman went on a tirade as our trip on the streetcar approached its second hour. The focus of her rage: younger riders not giving up their seats for the older. The upshot of the woman's comments: I should be ashamed of myself; something is wrong with our society; I bring shame to my family; my parents could not have raised me like this; I obviously could not have attended college; I must think I am someone important.

To this all the elders applauded with great vigor. I chose not to respond because I was outnumbered.

— Lee Thomas, Seattle

Steeeeeealer!

"Clang, clang goes Lake Union" [editorial, Dec. 12], discussing possible new streetcar lines, wisely notes that they do not "come without a cost."

So, with that said, let's look at the cost of this one short line.

This streetcar line — at a capital cost of $51 million, an annual operating cost of $2 million, serving the forecast ridership of 1,000 a day — computes to a per-rider cost of $32.23 per trip, taking the annual cost of money at only 6 percent.

With a transit fare of $1.50, this is a subsidy of such a huge magnitude as to make Sound Transit green with envy.

Naturally, to cover this $32 subsidy, the city must rob the bus system. In fact, it has already started to do this on a measly 1.6-mile line.

To the mayor and City Council I must ask, "Are you all insane?"

Alternatively, perhaps they are secretly asking for a recall election.

— Christopher Brown, Seattle

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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