Letters to the Editor for March 29
Strock’s expectations as a tourist in Israel unrealistically high
Re Carl Strock’s March 25 column [“On the prowl for wonders in Jerusalem”], I felt he often lacked acceptance of the more religious factions of Judaism because of how they dressed, acted, believed and behaved. Who were they hurting?
Expecting that a people in their own land be cordial or interested in having a conversation with a visitor is likely to be a disappointment for anyone having that expectation. The people on which Carl was commenting were simply following their beliefs. There was no overt expectation that anyone else do what they do, unless someone was intruding in their space.
Much of Israel is secular, about which Carl made no mention. I myself visited Israel recently and simply observed, but interacted mostly with those providing services to us, such as taxi drivers, pharmacists, hotel attendants, grocers, and wait staff at restaurants. I had no conversations with the very religious individuals, because I knew they were doing their thing, and I was doing my thing — being a traveler, being amazed at the sights, interacting when the time and place was right and learning about the country from our tour guide.
However, there were many in Israel who were interested in conversing. I wouldn’t expect that a person so preoccupied with Torah study would choose to learn about a foreign traveler.
What is important when we visit another country is to observe, respect, understand and attempt to communicate when there is a sense that the other person is open to conversation. It is their country, and their way of living.
Just like here in the United States, as we walk down State Street in Schenectady: Not many are too interested in having a spontaneous conversation with a stranger.
Climate change ‘experts’ haven’t got a clue
Re March 14 letter, “Climate change goes on, as does the foot dragging”: For Mr. B.K. Keramati’s information, Earth’s climate has been changing for billions of years. At one time, carbon dioxide levels were far greater than they are today. Fifty thousand years ago, an ice sheet one mile thick covered most of the globe.
In the 1970s meteorologists and climatologists were predicting another Ice Age. By the early ’90s it changed to global warming.
Two years ago a report [from] the University of Cambridge stating the Himalayan Mountain glaciers were melting proved to be a fraud. Both claims were based on computer modeling subject to manipulation. Without missing a beat, environmentalists switched to climate change. So which is it? Will we freeze to death, broil, or both?
We cannot afford ideology to trump common sense. Ethanol has proven to be an obscene waste of money. Solar panels have a long payback period, by which time they may need to be replaced, and they only work when the sun shines. Windmills need wind. To assume that all of our energy needs can be met with alternatives like solar, wind, corn, soy, used cooking oil, switch grass or algae is laughable, or the cost is prohibitive.
Since Mr. Keramati has elected to lecture us, I assume he lives in a “green house” and has pulled the plug on his utility company.
Teacher evaluation setup unfair, and costly
New York state’s dire fiscal situation and its thirst for $700 million in federal Race to the Top funds may have caused Gov. Cuomo and the teachers unions to implement a faulty teacher evaluation program.
From a student’s perspective, there are unfair consequences that will impact teachers; and additional ramifications that will impact taxpayers’ pocketbooks. A New York Daily News opinion article, “Cuomo’s teacher evaluation deal is a big win for schoolchildren,” states “student progress on standardized tests will make up a significant portion of the teacher’s rating. More subjective measures are clearly spelled out, but will not be able to save an instructor rated ineffective based on exam results.”
A teacher rated ineffective for two years will be subject to dismissal. Up to 40 percent of the teacher’s rating could be based on students’ standardized test scores. The rest of the points will come from observations by independently trained evaluators (cost to taxpayers), peer classroom observations (a teacher better hope their peers like them), student and parent feedback (better not discipline a student or risk a poor rating) and evidence of performance through student portfolios (this is the only option that seems to make sense).
After one year, a district will hire a “validator” (more costs to taxpayers) to render an opinion on whether a principal is justified in issuing a second ineffective rating to a teacher.
However, what do we know about standardized tests to determine if it is fair to use them in evaluations? Colleges are moving away from the SAT and ACT standardized tests because they found they do not truly reflect a student’s ability to succeed in college. Some good students can perform poorly on these exams. Most importantly, the knowledge absorbed by any particular student in earlier school years may or may not have been adequate to prepare the student for their current grade-level work.
The current teacher now receiving a poorly prepared student is being evaluated based on how that student does on a standardized test today. That teacher cannot make up for prior years of inadequate preparation, plus bring the student up to their current level, all within the same year. But their job is now on the line, depending on how that student performs on these exams.
Further, often to save costs on the number of aides placed in classrooms, schools assign groups of special education students to the same classroom. These students are not always exempt from standardized test taking and will likely not do well. Is that teacher’s job to be at risk because they are assigned a large [number] of special needs children?
The only thing that makes sense is to determine a base level of performance for each student as they enter a grade, and to develop measurable performance goals similar to that done in Individual Education Plans to define student growth. Using standardized test scores to determine such a large part of a teacher’s effectiveness gets a failing grade from this student.
The writer is a high school student.
Cheney never had a heart to begin with
Re March 25 AP article, “Former vice president Cheney recovers from heart transplant”: Now that Cheney has a new heart, do you think he will use this one?
Bruce S. Trachtenberg
The Gazette wants your opinions on public issues.
There is no strict word limit, though letters under 200 words are preferred.
All letters are subject to editing for length, style and fairness, and we will run no more than one letter per month from the same writer.
Please include your signature, address and day phone for verification.
For information on how to send, see bottom of this page.
For more letters, visit our website: www.dailygazette.com.