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Letters: Using student tests to evaluate teachers

Finally someone gets it right ["Some students being set up to fail," Opinion, Sept. 29]!

I recently retired as a special education teacher after nearly 30 years, teaching K-8 in Queens. I experienced all the unfair policies and more mentioned in the op-ed by state Regent Roger Tilles.

A general education student must pass with at least a 60 percent average to be promoted to the next grade. Not so for special education students with individualized education plans and modified promotional criteria. If the special education teacher writes a 30 percent criteria level, then that student will move to the next grade with only a 30 percent passing grade.

Originally, this was to prevent students from being repeatedly left back, which is unhealthy both socially and emotionally. These students move on, and their difficulties create a wider gap between their functioning level and their grade expectations.

Much classroom instruction ends and test preparation begins in December and January. During this time, many people criticize teachers for teaching to the test. There is pressure on the teachers for their students to perform well because the teachers are rated according to student improvement.

Special education students receive test accommodations, but state tests are still given according to a student's age and grade, regardless of his or her functioning academic level. A fifth-grade student who reads on a second-grade level may be given a fifth-grade test with extended time. This would be equivalent to my taking a reading test in Japanese but given extended time. As with the special education student, I would be set up to fail.

If the state mandates individualized attention, and the schools mandate individualized focus in education, then the state tests must follow suit.

Perhaps, as suggested in the article, tests should be diagnostic in nature rather than a method to determine a teacher's competency.

Elysa Parker, North Woodmere

I could not agree more with Regent Roger Tilles about the misguided use of one-size-fits-all testing, particularly when those results are used to evaluate teachers and schools. I cringe whenever I see the term "failing schools."

A sixth-grade social studies teacher in New York City told me that 90 percent of her students read and write at a third-grade level.

How can these students possibly be expected to interpret readings and make appropriate inferences when they can't even read the words? Many of these students cannot write a full sentence, yet they are somehow expected to express complex ideas and extrapolate information. The school and the teacher are then evaluated on this.

The current application of this testing goes against the original intent, which was to provide diagnostic adaptive testing for appropriate instruction according to the student's abilities. Students who perform three years behind their grade levels require remedial programs, not more high-stakes testing. Our schools require realistic educational strategies and resources, not more bureaucratic attempts to affix blame on front-line educators.

Anthony P. Sarola, Manhasset

Secret Service flubs White House watch

Newsday was right to call for the firing of Secret Service director Julia Pierson, but her departure alone will be as inadequate and ineffective as the resignation of only director Eric Shinseki for all the ills of the Department of Veterans Affairs ["Fire the director of Secret Service," Editorial, Oct. 1].

Other Secret Service personnel who deserve to be fired -- if not prosecuted for endangering the life of our president -- include the agents who noticed Omar J. Gonzalez and failed to stop him; the handler who didn't release his attack dog; the person responsible for silencing the White House front-door alarm; the Atlanta detail that allowed an armed man into an elevator with President Barack Obama; those officials who failed to keep Gonzalez locked up after he was stopped and allegedly found to be carrying a sawed-off shotgun, sniper rifles and a map with a line drawn to the White House; and those who failed to jail him on Aug. 25 for allegedly carrying a hatchet near the White House.

Perhaps Pierson's successor should be the housekeeper who in November 2011 discovered -- and reported -- the bullet-pierced window.

Richard Siegelman, Plainview

The Secret Service should be called the Pink Panther Police because it acts like Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the Peter Sellers comedies. These clowns are a horror show that imperils and humiliates our president.

Dick Reif, Flushing

Reconsider tax rebate checks for everyone

I agree with the letter writer who said it's deplorable that rebate checks are being mailed to selected taxpayers with children younger than 17 in 2012 ["Widen circle for rebate checks," Oct. 2].

We all pay taxes, so why shouldn't we all receive this rebate? Someone who earns just under $300,000 will receive this check, when there are many others with lower incomes. How is this fair?

This rebate should be looked at again.

Ann Marie Moroneso, Shirley