Santa Barbara News-Press, 3/5/05



Test scores poor reason to transfer

I was surprised to read in the News-Press that the top reason parents leave the Santa Barbara School District is test scores. I also was surprised to see the Hope District's scores referred to as "remarkable."

Parents need to understand that a school's API is an average, but the state also breaks down that number into ethnic and economic subgroups.

In Santa Barbara, the traditional neighborhood schools of Adams, Monroe, Roosevelt and Washington -- every school that has enough Caucasians for the state to report their group scores -- have white children who test at least in the upper 800s, just like those children in Hope District schools.

Since the curriculum and quality are very similar at all nonalternative Santa Barbara schools, it is clear that white children would be able to excel at any of the district's neighborhood campuses.

Frankly, getting middle-class kids of any race to test well is not remarkable; it's common. What is amazing is working with low-income and English learners.

Talking about white flight from neighborhood schools is difficult. We need to keep the conversation going, however, because it does a great disservice to our children and our community to have schools divided along racial or economic lines.

Class, language and cultural barriers are all issues we need to address together, but test scores should be the last reason anyone transfers out of the Santa Barbara School District.

Kate Parker, Adams School parent, Santa Barbara

Cleveland expects pupils to aim high

It is with great pleasure that I read the article mentioning Cleveland School's academic improvement.

For more than five years, as the president of the Wharton Foundation, I've had the pleasure of working with Principal Mike Vail and his great team of teachers, staff and volunteers.

During that time, I have witnessed what dedication and leadership can accomplish when the focus is always on high expectations for students and support for teachers.

We had the privilege of working in a partnership with Cleveland School to develop a comprehensive hands-on, inquiry-based science program when many schools were consumed with just meeting the challenges of literacy standards.

Cleveland decided this wasn't enough, and with Mr. Vail's leadership has built strong relationships with the community to expand school resources achieve academic excellence.

During annual site visits, I heard Cleveland's teachers and students describe the joy of applying scientific protocol and defining hypotheses.

Mr. Vail and his wonderful team of educators have kept their eyes on the ball while enriching the learning experience by integrating and strengthening academics across the curriculum. I applaud the News-Press for acknowledging their efforts.

These students will be Santa Barbara's doctors, technology innovators and environmental stewards.

I believe most parents would choose to send their children to Cleveland if they looked beyond raw test scores and saw the rich academic environment and the students' yearly progress.

Jean W. Pettitt, President, Wharton Foundation

School libraries need librarians

The News-Press Feb. 21 editorial is correct to point out that Santa Barbara taxpayers voted for a bond to build libraries. Only one of the proposed libraries will be constructed at Adams School.

What good is a new library if the school district eliminates the library teaching programs? By not funding the professional librarians, the school board restricts the use of this new library.

Under library clerks, libraries will be warehouses. Student use will be limited to checking out books. Children will not have library instruction unless classroom teachers fill the gap.

Elementary teachers have their schedules full raising reading and math test scores to the point of reducing class time spent on social studies, science, P.E., art and music. Now they'll also be expected to teach literature awareness and library research skills.

Professional library instruction has been a traditional part of the educational advantage of attending Santa Barbara elementary schools since the 1960s. Each child benefits from the weekly lessons, but librarians are always the first item on the budget cut lists.

Our community can help. Santa Barbarans are generous, especially when it comes to health. It is time for us to think that donating toward public education is as valuable and important as cancer research, Cottage Hospital, etc. Village Properties' Teacher's Fund is a good example of help given directly to the classrooms.

The need now is for a supplement to the budgeted clerk salaries to continue funding professional librarians. Individuals can join to write checks for this year or individual charitable trusts may donate one time for one specific year. Then Santa Barbara's children will keep their educational edge for many years to come.

Susan Billig, Librarian, McKinley School

Shelving librarians an ironic move

The Santa Barbara School Board has voted to cut all elementary librarian positions; hence, all quality library programs from the Santa Barbara School District.

This vote is ironic since our district, which supposedly puts a high emphasis on student reading and literacy, has cut what little it already pays for librarians.

The 2003-04 school year saw the Orfalea Foundation granting the district a third of the cost to hire librarians, and 2004-05 saw Mrs. Turner, a retired teacher, paying two-thirds to the district to fund librarians.

That means that the district, as of this year, is already only paying out one-third of its funds to hire librarians. And now it has cut librarians out totally for next year.

What is particularly sad is the district is denying important research and hard evidence since 1999 that, "clearly demonstrates the importance of school libraries to students' education. Whether student achievement is measured by standardized reading achievement tests or by global assessments of learning, research shows that a well-stocked library -- teacher -- has a positive impact on student achievement, regardless of the socio-economic or education levels of the community."

Perhaps it is time for the Santa Barbara community to start demanding responsible fiscal management of our school districts.

Perhaps it is time to sell property the districts own that will not be used as schools in order to become fiscally responsible.

Has anyone wondered where his or her bond money has gone?

The construction of new libraries was one of the bond measures and it has finally begun at different school sites, such as Franklin. Is it fiscally responsible to voters to pass a bond measure and start construction on new libraries, only to say you will now cut the position of librarians?

Please make your voice heard to the Santa Barbara School Districts and help support school librarians.

Heather McBride, Library media teacher, Harding Elementary School

Learn benefits of honors program

As an International Baccalaureate teacher of English-language literature, who trained and taught in Costa Rica, where, I must point out, almost all of my students were Latino, and native speakers of Spanish, I observe the Santa Barbara School Board's current angst over the continuation of the IB program at Dos Pueblos High School with a certain bemused frustration. See "School's advanced program faces big test," in Wednesday's News-Press.

To consider eliminating an internationally respected, academically proven program -- one that encourages its participants to pursue study in at least two languages, to actively explore other cultures, and to communicate with young scholars from other parts of the world -- seems to me remarkably counterproductive.

Taking the IB away from the students of Santa Barbara simply because at present the number of Latino students enrolled in IB courses doesn't mirror Dos Pueblos's overall demographic makeup is tantamount to snatching a plate of food away from a group of hungry children simply because they aren't yet familiar with what's being offered them.

Dos Pueblos' IB program is still in its infancy. Santa Barbara School District stakeholders of all descriptions are still learning about it and how it complements -- not competes with -- the more established Advanced Placement program.

I urge other concerned parents and citizens, including our hardworking school board members, to take some time, to observe the program in action at Dos Pueblos, and to better educate themselves about the International Baccalaureate program and its potential to serve all of our college-bound students before making any decisions about the IB's future in Santa Barbara.

The International Baccalaureate program's multilingual official Web site,, is a great place to start.

Leslie Turnbull, Santa Barbara

To educate or indoctrinate?

America, have you noticed what is happening in our schools? As a former teacher, I am appalled at what I see.

What is the role of teachers and professors?

I believe their role is to inform and educate students in an objective way. Students should also be taught to think for themselves. However, is this what is happening today?

The majority of colleges and universities hire professors with a left-leaning agenda. Many of the professors are intent on influencing the beliefs of their students.

Whatever happened to teaching in an objective manner?

How can students get a realistic view of the world, when they are taught only one view of the world?

Some professors teach hate. Ward Churchill from the University of Colorado is a good example of this. How could such a radical professor be hired?

Problems also occur in grade schools. Teachers once again attempt to influence the views of students. The social studies teacher of a middle-school in Brooklyn, had his students write letters to some U.S. soldiers. Most of the letters were very negative. Some letters accused the soldiers of destroying mosques and killing civilians.

These letters were politically motivated.

Just who does this teacher think is fighting for his right of free speech?

America, once again, what is the role of our teachers and professors? Is it to educate or is it to indoctrinate?

Diana Thorn, Carpinteria

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