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Letters

CHARTER SCHOOLS

DEAR EDITOR:

A recent [November 10–16] cover story by Howard Blume claims off-site, home-based charter-school programs contain “No Classrooms, No Teachers, No Playgrounds, No Standards.” This is simply not true. In fact, the irony here is that the facts presented in the body of the article clearly refute the inflammatory title.

The purpose of curriculum is to enable students to achieve educational standards. At Horizon, different curricula are used for different students. A fourth-grader may choose between 10 to 20 different curriculums to learn math, for example. Horizon currently offers approximately 1,000 small-group-instruction classes for its students. These classes look exactly like classes in a traditional public school. They take place in rooms and are led by teachers. The difference is that students are not required to attend six classes per day dictated by a bell schedule.

As for the issue of teachers, Horizon provides state-certificated “education specialists” whose primary role is to assess and document the progress and achievement of their students. Every student in every non-site-based charter school in California must have such a teacher assigned, and current law also restricts the number of students that each teacher may serve. That maximum number, by the way, is lower than the maximum allowed for many regular-classroom teachers in California.

In a conventional public school program, the cost of facilities, cafeterias and busing services is significant and drains a substantial percentage of the funds that Horizon would use instead to directly educate students. Because critics contend that there is a potential to misdirect funds, Innovative Education Management’s budgets and financial reports are available on its Web site for public review. Charter schools should be subject to the same disclosure laws as regular public schools.

As cited in the article, 94 percent of Horizon students utilize computers in the home. That impressive percentage dramatically exceeds the paltry percentage of conventional public school students who have computer access. IEM schools, such as Horizon, are bringing computers and Internet access into the homes of even the most impoverished communities in California.

Taking a larger view, we are on the cusp of a major cultural shift. Just as people moved from the farms to the cities as a result of the industrial revolution, they are moving back home to work because of the technology revolution. As they do, more and more parents will want their children to learn at home. Pioneering off-site public school programs such as Horizon are offering successful alternatives for the rapidly growing numbers of families who view the violence, social and sexual peer pressures, drugs and moral-valueless curricula in conventional public schools as detrimental to the well-being of their children.

People are quick to criticize anything they don’t understand or agree with. Most people have become so accustomed to education looking like it has for the last 100 years that they cannot see that it must change just as everything else has. We should embrace change, not fear it.

—Randy Gaschler Innovative Education Management Los Angeles

 

DEAR EDITOR:

As a traditional educator for over 28 years, I became very interested in charter schools several years ago. It was my experience that many children, not all, were being underserved by public education. The local efforts of dedicated public educators were often not enough to meet the educational needs of a changing society. Charter schools were created to: 1) improve student learning, 2) increase learning opportunities and options, 3) encourage use of new instructional strategies, 4) provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within public schools.

Each of the one2one Learning Foundation schools offers a strong, innovative, standards-based program with dedicated teachers and administrators. Each school offers parents and students nontraditional choices, but each school is a public school accountable for its operation and its results. Unlike more traditional public schools, one2one schools must prove themselves or are at the risk of losing the charter.

I commend your paper for taking a strong interest in charter schools. For the school system to fit the needs of students, charter options such as independent-learning schools need to be available. They need to be governed by stakeholders. I invite you or any member of the public to visit a one2one Learning Foundation–affiliated school.

—A. James Jones, CEO one2one Learning Foundation

LOUD AND CLEAR

DEAR EDITOR:

Harold Meyerson’s “No Votes, Please” [Powerlines, December 1–7] is the same old, same old. The liberal Democrats will twist any facts or find any way to make the argument go in their direction. This is just the same tired information dredged up yet again and twisted into a liberal rant.

This election was won by President-elect George W. Bush. Republicans won. In the process, thousands of Republicans, like myself, have become activists, making sure our rights are protected, something we have never done before. After living through the Clinton-Gore years and shouting at our TV sets, we are finally making our voices heard beyond our living rooms.

Can you hear us now?

—Lynn Mitchell Staunton, Virginia

 

DEAR EDITOR:

I found Harold Meyerson’s spotlighting of the mean-spirited resentment that characterizes the Republican leadership especially important. This is so because it explains not only their stance during the current Florida tangle but their overall approach to political competition. Along with this deep-seated rancor is a barely concealed sense of entitlement. For power to be in any other hands than theirs is considered not merely undesirable but contrary to the very order of things. At the same time, they project these unlovely traits onto others, constantly complaining that they, the Republicans, are the victims of intolerance, mistreatment, etc.

Finally, it should be noted that the Republicans are rather skilled at using lofty, high-sounding rhetoric to conceal what actually is taking place. With regard to the Florida election dispute, they invoke the “rule of law,” the “need for closure,” while on the ground in Florida their tactics are exceedingly shabby — ranging from foot-dragging in the courts, to running out the clock, to near-riotous activity in Miami designed to overawe the elections board into deciding not to count the votes. The fact that, in a conference call to the perpetrators, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were joking about this activity is unsettling indeed. It would be interesting to hear their definition of “rule of law” as it applies to the Miami rampage.

—Donald B. Delano Los Angeles

 

MISTER HANKY DOWN UNDER

DEAR EDITOR:

The low-flow toilets mentioned in D.T. Max’s review [“Dung Ho: New Interest in a Very Old Subject,” November 17–23] of Dominique Laporte’s History of [Merde] (I can’t write the other word, I’m afraid) flush in at 1.5 gallons per. Our Australian toilets use 6 liters for a full flush and 3 liters for the half-flush. Thank you. I found the item quite interesting. Kind regards and have a happy Christmas!

—Paul Robinson Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Australia


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