Amid all the doom and gloom lately among those concerned with public school education, it appears that some columnists like Daniel Akst are finally starting to talk about students from disadvantaged homes, a factor that should be the real driver behind school reform efforts ["Poverty is the problem, not the answer," Opinion, Sept. 10].

So far, a centerpiece of reform efforts has been the improvement of the system for evaluating teachers and principals. This is all well and good for school districts that are still using lesson plans and instructional techniques from 25 years ago, and those where administrators may have failed to hold teachers accountable.

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However, for those districts that have been providing 21st-century learning opportunities and effectively serving the needs of all students regardless of their socioeconomic status, such as in Rockville Centre and Valley Stream, the state mandate to change the staff evaluation system is draining an enormous amount of time and money.

The federal Race to the Top money should have been used to help disadvantaged students and their families who need to hire after-school tutors, provide child care so parents can meet with teachers, purchase technology for their homes, provide preschool programs, and supply other basic essentials so children can come to school more ready to learn.

Richard S. Marsh, Bethpage

Editor's note: The writer is a former superintendent of the Bethpage school district and served as an interim superintendent for the Valley Stream Central High School and the Wantagh school districts.