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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

Mistakes in state tests don't inspire confidence

The recent furor over mistakes, and confusing reading passages in New York assessments, is powerful evidence to question their use in teacher evaluations. New York State needs to step back as it tries to strong-arm districts in creating annual teacher reviews that over-rely on tests.

If the State Education Department can't create a test that's valid and error-free, how can it be trusted to demand changes to something as complicated as teacher evaluations?

Children's achievement and teacher effectiveness are based on many inputs. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top over-reliance on testing is a shortcut that doesn't serve children's interests or their educators. Teachers need annual reviews that are authentic and complete. The errors in this year's test demonstrate that Albany's viewpoint on this issue is as flawed as its tests.

James F. Waack

East Amherst


Tests should not be used to rate teachers

I am a retired ESL teacher with approximately 32 years of experience (23-plus in the Buffalo Public Schools). I also worked in special education programs in California and did a short stint as an administrator. During my career, I took many classes -- some required, some not. I also engaged in committee work, workshops, in-services, audited some classes and trained other teachers.

Never, in those 32 years of classes, did I come across any evaluation/testing procedures that encouraged the use of student tests to be used for any other purpose than to evaluate them in a particular area that they had previously received instruction in. In fact, Evaluation/Testing Procedures 101 states: "Evaluations/tests should only be used for the exclusive purpose for which they were designed." Therefore, student tests should not be used to evaluate teachers, ever!

The most disheartening (and scary) thought is that all of these so-called educated politicians, education commissioners, Regents and chancellors cannot come up with a fair way to evaluate teachers, but also don't know this very simple process of evaluation.

Phil Rumore should sign off? First, it's not up to him. He represents teachers. He absolutely should not, and neither should any teacher, anywhere!

Maggie Wahl-Horne

Port Colborne, Ontario


BTF should reconsider its stance on evaluations

As a retired teacher, I feel I need to weigh in on the proposed teacher evaluation policy. I know the following is not the popular opinion of most educators, but one just needs to stop for a moment and ask oneself, what is the best way to go in order to have the greatest impact on the students?

After teaching in Buffalo for more than 30 years, I am fully aware of the enormous problem of student absenteeism. I am also aware of the unfairness of evaluating teachers' results while including students who are not there. That makes absolutely no sense.

On the other hand, by refusing to compromise on this issue, the teachers union is hurting those students who do show up, expecting the best that teachers have to offer. That best has now been hurt to the tune of millions of dollars. Where once these dedicated teachers had help working with those students who needed it, that help is no longer available. Those students who are excessively absent have now hurt those who are in school. The teachers union has allowed this to happen.

If you are a dedicated, hard-working teacher, you know who you are. You also know how much of a positive impact you have on your students. The administration knows who you are, what you do on a daily basis, and your colleagues know as well. Do you really think that because 20 percent of your total evaluation includes evaluating those students with excessive absence, that you are in jeopardy of losing your job? So you don't get a 100 percent on your evaluation. You receive an 80 percent while knowing that you have done a great job with those students who show up to your class every day. Doesn't that, in a sense, reflect what we ask of our students? Do your best -- the grade isn't important.

One last thought. Does the BTF think that refusing to budge on the proposal will solve the absenteeism rate? I doubt it. It's time the BTF leadership does something that will give itself a positive image in the community, as well as helping its members better educate the children of Buffalo.

Jeffrey Schapiro



Vatican should focus on priests, not nuns

While not a Catholic, I must respond to the Vatican's "crackdown" on area nuns, as reported in the April 29 News. The Vatican is concerned about the "radical feminist themes" incompatible with the Catholic faith. Please explain the Vatican's "crackdown" during the ongoing crisis of priests sexually violating young boys of their congregation. Isn't pedophilia incompatible with the Catholic faith? I think the question the Vatican should be asking is how many of these "radical" nuns have sexually violated young boys, and then compare that number to the number of priests who are guilty of the same crime.

It seems to me the Vatican should be trying to correct errant members of the priesthood, not the convents.

Larry Dudeck



Nuns are following teachings of Jesus

The Vatican strikes again. Poor nuns! How dare they take on social justice issues! Next on the Vatican's reprimand list will be Jesus and his disciples. After all, they overturned the money-changing tables in the temples. They violated local church laws. Women were accepted in their group. They reached out to the abject members of their society like the poor and all sorts of sinners. They did not require people to jump through hoops or pay money to gain their influence. They did not close churches because they were the church. They did not speak Latin. They did not say the rosary. They did not belong to country clubs. They mingled with all of society, not just the rich. They did not own prime lakefront property or country estates or fancy cathedrals or have the mother of all art collections. They never wore ostentatious clothes in public. They did not run Vatican banks or own stocks. They were transparent with their meager finances, unlike today.

Above all, they protected the children. Jesus took that seriously. He would need many a millstone for the hierarchy of today. One would expect with all the pedophilia in the church, the Vatican would have more pressing issues to deal with than rattling threats and cracking down on nuns who bring social justice to the forefront. Some may not be in line with church teaching, but they certainly are in line with the teachings of Jesus. The supermarket bishops and cardinals like to pick and choose what social issues they should enforce. If anyone should be denied the sacraments, it should be them for sweeping all their corruption under their white sepulchers. God forbid they should clean up their own house before they clean others, but I guess they are just blind to the big beam in their own eye.

Joseph F. Kozina

West Falls


We need attractions that will draw tourists

In response to the April 28 News article, "Park envisioned for outer harbor land," this area does not need another park. We have so many parks that are underutilized and not cared for that this envision will not be frequented as much as the advocates think. What I feel we should submit to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and/or the Erie County Harbor Development Corp. are proposals to bring an aquarium, children's museum and perhaps some restaurants to coincide with boat slips (think Baltimore). We need a significant draw to bring people in from all around to make it an overall "destination." Thinking beyond the scope of another place to walk your dog or picnic is what can make that harbor viable for all. Bring it to a vote.

Paul Sampugnaro



Keep outer harbor 'green' with a world-class park

Thanks to Joanne Kahn and Joan Bozer for a visionary yet eminently doable plan for a world-class park on the Buffalo outer harbor embracing the greenway corridor to South Park, as described in their April 24 Another Voice. Their call for a lakefront park, following the guidelines proposed by Frederick Law Olmsted, begins with the straightforward objective of full public access to "a soft edge at Lake Erie."

If we start with and not let go of that concept, we can create a park and a city for the 21st century; a city that recognizes that open spaces and recreational opportunities are investments as essential to a vibrant economy as the new medical campus and revitalized neighborhoods. With increased public awareness of the benefits of a truly "green" outer harbor, this vision can become a reality.

Janet Massaro



Abandon any thoughts of a downtown stadium

A recent Viewpoints article and a letter to the editor both expressed the benefits of building a new stadium downtown. There are major reasons against this idea. First, and foremost, there is the question of access. Ralph Wilson Stadium has a capacity of 73,000 seats. A new stadium would probably have about 80,000 seats. Let us assume that 20,000 people will come by public transportation. That means that 60,000 would come by car. If four people ride in one car (probably much less) that means that we would have to provide 15,000 parking spots! And this is for only eight to 10 times a year. In addition, traffic congestion, both by Metro Rail and Bus, and by car, would be awful.

Second, an $800 million cost would probably climb to a billion dollars after paying off the bonds. This would require a major increase in property taxes and sales tax, perhaps to 10 percent or more. I do not want to pay these increased taxes.

Third, it would cause a major disruption in downtown traffic for perhaps five years of construction. I think that these are major problems with the whole idea, and the thoughts of a new stadium should be abandoned.

Paul R. Libby



Parents should attend diversity training, too

I am appalled that some seventh- and eighth-grade girls at Clarence Middle School used discriminatory and racial language against the girls at Sweet Home during their recent lacrosse game. These girls are 12 and 13 years old, getting their first taste of sports competition, and they have to deal with rude and ignorant comments from the opposing team. I am glad that the response from Clarence was quick and I hope the team learns something from its required diversity training. I hope that the parents are required to go to that meeting, because the smack talk starts with what they see and hear at home. I hope that the lessons learned by those girls in Clarence are lifelong and they will think before they open their mouths again.

Melissa Peters

West Seneca