Not all students can be tested the same way
Regarding the July 21 article "As schools 'fail,' parents talk transfers": In the past, special-education students and those who spoke and read little English were not expected to take standardized tests along with their peers who understood what they were reading. This has changed, thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act. Starting this year, schools are forced to have all but the most severely mentally disabled students take the test. Their failing scores must be averaged in with other students' scores to obtain the final score upon which the school is judged. The same holds true for non-English-speaking students who have been in the school system for more than one year, regardless of their ability to read or understand the test.
This is having devastating effects on the scores of many schools, particularly inner-city schools that have higher percentages of these populations. The law specifies that all students must make progress. I agree. Their progress, however, should be measured in ways appropriate to their abilities.
Regarding the July 22 Opinion "The nonviolent script for Iran": I applaud Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall's approach of effecting social and political change by organizing and uniting people similar to the Otpor movement - the Serb students who drove out their leader - in Serbia. The Serb students were funded and trained in nonviolent resistance by the US. Perhaps this kind of support from the US would be helpful in Iran.
Regarding your July 22 article "Schools stumble over sex education": Douglas Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute says sex education "has become an ideological war." He's right, and that's the problem.
Age-appropriate, medically accurate sex-education programs have demonstrated positive results in delaying sexual initiation, reducing the frequency of sex, and increasing contraceptive use among teens. On the other hand, there is no current scientific evidence that abstinence-only programs are effective.
When it comes to the health of our nation's teens, there is no room for ideology when the science is clear. American taxpayers should not be bankrolling fuzzy science to the tune of $120 million a year.
Joan Malin, President and CEO
Planned Parenthood of New York City
Your article provided an unpaid advertisement for Michael Carrera's $4,000-per-student "safe sex" program - a program that's been found to be ineffective in changing boys' sexual behaviors and that has reduced teen pregnancies only through liberal provisions of Depo-Provera to girls. Your article states that abstinence programs teach "a dark message about the frightening potential consequences of sex outside marriage." Come on.
"Dark" implies ignorance and superstition. The landmark study on condoms by several of the federal government's leading health agencies and released by the National Institutes for Health in 2001 is not dark; it's painfully enlightening about condoms' risks and effectiveness.
One thing your article did get right was that "the two sides find themselves almost entirely at odds." The oft-proposed middle ground is to combine abstinence and "safe sex" into a smorgasbord approach in which kids choose for themselves. The problem is that one of the dishes on the table can be fatal. No one has ever died from abstaining from a potentially deadly offering.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Focus on the Family
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