Letters to the Editor
January 5, 2012

To the Editor:
At our first staff meeting of the year, the middle school staff had a depressing tongue-lashing from our new managers, whose first rule of inspiring and getting people energized to do a good job is … to berate and degrade them? These teachers have only been following the administrator's orders - orders of an endless stream of administrators whose failed ideas never succeed in raising our school's state test scores.
I tried asking these administrators right then the following, but they didn't want to answer any questions. They left it to me to ask others who might know, (our governor, state superintendent, representatives, newspapers, talk shows) why we are allowing our middle school students and teachers to be judged by faulty tests which are self-disqualifying in the following ways:
The tests are written at grade level - a level our kids can’t comprehend, so they can’t even understand the questions. Therefore we can't tell what they know subject-wise; we only can tell that they can't read, (which we already knew) while administrators get promoted and teachers get demeaned.
All three years of some subjects are tested only once, at the end of eighth grade. Could administrators pass this or any test on what they read three years ago? Three months ago? If not, how useful are these tests? No protest, no rally, not a letter on behalf of parents or students whom these administrators tell us “come first.” They evidently leave that to others.
For years I have asked administration why we don't just teach math and reading until the kids get caught up, (as they aren't able to access the rest until they do anyway) but have been told for years that “Sacramento wouldn't let us.” We are now told that “we don't care what Sacramento says anymore.” Then why are we still not focusing on math and reading, following the examples of districts like Santa Paula who are being continually thrown in our teacher's faces as examples of success?
The current policy of allowing students to be both sent to and sent out of the middle school while years behind in reading and math is not wise. Such policies are the result of faulty thinking, which not surprisingly also result in middle schools being designed with flat roofs with heavy air conditioners on top, so that roofs crack and leak every time it rains, causing saturated, (mold promoting?) tiles to crash down around the kids. Faulty structures, like faulty tests and policies are the result of faulty thinking. Blaming others, who just follow your orders, is much worse. The Bible promises wisdom to those who ask for it, and my parting prayer is that we renounce our pride and ask.
Richard Hood,
Retired teacher