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Some city schools defy the quick fix of charters

Amy Friedman notes in her Jan. 24 Another Voice that 13 of our city's public schools are listed by the state as persistently low achieving ("Solution to Buffalo schools' problems is in charters").

Her simplistic solution: Convert them all to charter schools where teachers teach, children come first, principals lead and parents are welcome.

I invite those who persistently vilify public schools to visit one of the schools deemed low achieving, namely School 45, the International School, where I have worked as a volunteer for four years.

Buffalo is a major recipient of immigrants and refugees. About half of the pupils in this prekindergarten to eighth-grade urban school come from some 30 different countries, and from homes where English is not the first language. Most of the families served by this school are poor.

The visitors would find a clean school, orderly classrooms, hard-working, kind and dedicated teachers, a principal devoted to leading a school with such a challenging student body and an attitude of welcome to the children's parents.

When this school was labeled low achieving, its deficiency was in (surprise, surprise) reading at grade level. The statistical robots who look only at test scores do not consider the whole story.

How many of us, born in the United States, would be able to read at grade level almost instantly if we were transported to a foreign country?

Unwarranted criticism is disheartening to teachers who strive every day to find creative ways to help children learn English and all other subjects as well.

I have seen teachers reach into their own pockets for money, and also spend extra time and energy to make sure that the children -- many from tropical climates -- have adequate cold weather clothes.

Often they must help the children learn our culture, the things that are so ingrained we take them for granted.

The entire teaching staff, led by the principal, actively encourages children, despite such different backgrounds, to learn to live together in a diverse society.

Some charter schools may be admirable, but certainly not all are. Their well-meaning proponents overlook facts about both traditional public and charter schools.

Every reform justifies itself by criticizing the status quo.

Enthusiasm is not a substitute for the facts and a condescending attitude hinders careful analysis.

We are not going to solve our problems by trashing productive teachers and principals.


Adeline Levine, Ph.D., of Buffalo, has volunteered at the International School for four years.

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