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Originally published June 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 16, 2008 at 12:58 PM

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Hutchins misses point: Teacher evaluations vital Editor, The Times: I agree with virtually everything Web Hutchins wrote questioning the...

WASL woes

Hutchins misses point: Teacher evaluations vital

Editor, The Times:

I agree with virtually everything Web Hutchins wrote questioning the value of the test-based WASL, Advanced Placement and the very real value of small class sizes ["Test-based education is shortchanging students," Times, guest commentary, June 11]. He does leave out a few things, however.

I've always thought that the education lobby has resisted teacher-competency evaluation to the point that testing students with the WASL has become the alternative to testing and evaluating teachers. What does education certification really mean? It certainly doesn't mean competence in the classroom. Why is the education lobby so afraid of giving parents more choice in the selection of schools and teachers? I don't think it's about classroom size.

— Neal Underland, Bothell

Bellevue and the WASL

Thank you very much to Web Hutchins for speaking out about the Seattle school district's plan to develop a more "standards-based" curriculum.

While Hutchins' article focused on how best to meet the needs of low-income students and to attract those who upper-income parents have opted out of the system, in fact, there are many, many children left behind in Bellevue's "AP-rich" district to which he refers, regardless of socioeconomic status.

The Bellevue School District's high-school curriculum — which offers only honors or AP math courses — is predicated on the belief that with sufficient support, every child, regardless of natural ability, can succeed in any standards-based, honors-only or AP course.

For example, this means that students who are unable to be successful in an honors math class must take a second math-support class, effectively requiring the child to spend two hours a day in a subject in order to get one year of credit.

This ignores the well-respected notion that each of us has "multiple intelligences" and reflects a fundamental problem either with the curriculum or the teaching — it's one or the other.

Yet a move down the path Bellevue's district is traveling — and Seattle's school leadership now seeks to follow — sadly goes against the most preeminent national pedagogical literature. As Hutchins notes, while "standards-based" programs push rapid-fire content in the name of "rigor," they ignore the right-brained skills — empathy, collaboration, creativity, meaning, information synthesis, flexibility, to name a few — that our next generation of adults will need to be successful, both personally and professionally, in our rapidly changing society.

— Barbara Maduell, Bellevue

Lack of trust in teachers

I see the logic in everything Web Hutchins says about "teach to the test" education. What he is missing is that we do not trust him, his fellow teachers or a distressing though small number of parents.

We have taken the evaluation of the students out of their hands. We have done so because generation after generation of students were so badly handled in our school system that we felt we had no other choice. The teachers themselves tell us not to grade them or advance them solely on the quality and product of their work.

Before testing, teachers routinely advanced students who knew nothing and sent them out to support themselves with nothing in their heads.

All right, if teachers cannot teach and cannot deal with problem parents, we will test the students ourselves and deny them advancement when they do not obtain a minimum amount of knowledge. Sorry, but I don't see an alternative.

Our system may look ugly from the teachers' perspective and perhaps from the students' perspective, but the results are clear and the students know more than they did before testing.

Bring us a better solution, Mr. Hutchins. Win back our trust. I would be utterly delighted and our children would be well-served.

— Gilliat Schroeder, Issaquah

Tomato scare

Manure and meat might equal E. coli

As a dietitian, I hope the recent salmonella outbreak from tomatoes — which comes just a year after the massive spinach recall linked to E. coli — compels policymakers to adopt more-stringent food safety laws ["Tainted tomatoes: what to toss out," page one, June 10].

Experts often view food contamination as an unavoidable fact of life, but salmonella and E. coli are a consequence of industrialized agriculture. Salmonella and E. coli are bacteria that originate from the intestinal tracts of cows and other animals. When fruits and vegetables become tainted with salmonella and other bacteria, it's usually because manure from an infected animal contaminated the fertilizer or irrigation water used in the fields. A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts concluded that industrialized farm-animal production poses unacceptable risks to public health.

Americans should leave contaminated food off their plates and follow the FDA's recommended precautions. But consumers should also consider setting meat aside, since waste from intensive livestock operations increases the risk of food-borne illnesses.

Eliminating meat also helps lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related illnesses.

— Susan Levin, staff dietitian, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, D.C.

Don't wuss out

We are a nation of wusses. We have a population of 300 million people and 167 get sick — no deaths — from tomatoes. You'd think we have the second coming of the bubonic plague with the public's panic and its demands for the government to protect it from disaster. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than succumbing to tomato poisoning.

— George Kyer, Carnation

Good cops wanted

Police oversight essential

I am writing in response to Wednesday's editorial on police brutality ["Police, city whacked for excessive force," June 11]. Police brutality is rampant. At the same time, Seattle is far from safe. Significant reforms must be made in police response time as well as the treatment that officers accord citizens. Targeting specific areas of the city allows for crime to occur in other regions, making the propensity for crime even higher.

Police are a valuable asset in the maintenance of peace and order, yet allegations of discrimination continue, ultimately undermining the efforts of various precincts. The treatment of criminals is not universal, yet victims still feel unsafe in their places of residence. Money is not a solution.

Strategies of diplomacy along with increased resource distribution in corrections are examples of how we can prevent recurring trends of police brutality. As citizens of this city, it is time to hold those in positions of oversight accountable.

— Nigel Ramoz-Leslie, Seattle

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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