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Editorial: Better schools don't need so many tests

School evaluation data to date has been negatively weighted by the results of inner-city schools, causing citizens to believe that teachers and most American school districts are failing. Not a single study has analyzed the many successful school districts in places like Westchester and Long Island.

It's not difficult to list many school districts in Nassau and Suffolk that have results comparable to the finest schools in the country and in the international community. The academic results, number of students going on to college and minuscule dropout rates are the pride of residents. It's incredible that these districts are being forced to abandon their practices and resort to strategies that value single test results.

When school administrators evaluate teachers, they naturally consider students' performance on standardized exams, as well as other measures seemingly neglected in the present testing frenzy. These include comprehensive lesson planning, a positive classroom environment, awareness of students' learning styles, classroom discipline, assigning and checking homework, variety of instruction techniques, effective communication with parents and more.

It's unfortunate that administrators and union representatives were excluded from the planning for today's test-centric teaching method. People with a corporate mentality, devoid of classroom experience, don't even realize that underprivileged and affluent children can't be measured with a "one shoe fits all" evaluation system.

Robert Ricken, Floral Park

Editor's note: The writer has worked as a teacher, guidance counselor, principal and Mineola school superintendent.

Uncomfortable with visible ballot

Although I understand the need for the new voting procedure that replaced our antiquated voting machines, I am troubled by the apparent loss of one of our fundamental democratic principles: the secret ballot ["Election Day 2013," News, Nov. 6].

When I voted last week, I was offered a ballot but no protective sleeve to cover up my choices. I had to request a sleeve. When my wife voted earlier in the day, she was offered the sleeve, but after marking her ballot behind the screen, she was told to take it out of the protective sleeve to make it easier to insert into the voting machine. Any of the observers would have been able to glance at how she marked her ballot.

I am not accusing our dedicated poll workers of attempting to read my vote. If anything, they try to make the process smooth and friendly. Nevertheless, there is something wrong here that could lead to voter intimidation.

Michael Steuer, Smithtown

Move Halloween, to the weekend

Halloween should officially be held on either the last or second-to-last Saturday in October, from noon to 8 p.m. This would solve the annoyance of Halloween falling on a weekday. Kids wouldn't be knocking on doors of houses that are still empty because people aren't home from work.

Parents wouldn't have to come home from work and scramble to get their kids dressed. Offices and schools could have Friday afternoon Halloween parties.

Jay Eric, Locust Valley

New evaluations weren't 'negotiated'

In "'Ineffective' and proud" [News, Nov. 6], Newsday willfully deceives the public by saying the teacher evaluation law took effect after negotiations between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, top legislators and the teachers union.

Cuomo threatened to withhold state funding from any district that did not sign on to the evaluation scheme. That is called extortion, not negotiation, and Newsday should know the difference.

Timothy Kenyon, Northport

Editor's note: The writer is a public schoolteacher on Long Island.

Concerned for group-home son

Thank you for the letter regarding the death of Dainell Simmons, a group home resident who died after being subdued by police using a Taser ["Tasers a bad option to subdue disabled," Nov. 8].

I am the parent of a young disabled man living in a group home on Long Island. I have many friends with adult children with disabilities who live both at home and in group-home settings, and we were all outraged, appalled and frightened by this incident.

Individuals like my son, especially if frightened or overwhelmed, would not have the ability to respond immediately to any commands shouted at them by uniformed police. Would that mean they would view him as a threat? Would they then use a Taser on him?

To do this to an individual who perhaps does not understand what is going on is a type of torture. What kind of information does the staff at a group home relay to the police? And, what type of situation is too much for a trained staff to handle?

I urge Newsday to follow up.

Roseann Forziano, Rocky Point