Thumb TAKS

Plus: Wonderful Rubbish, Dems Don't Get It, Peeved at Parsons

Thumb TAKS

Journalism junkie: As HISD administrators begin preparing their excuses in advance of impeding calamity, I can only watch wryly as they struggle to solve a problem while ignoring the means to do so ["Wake-Up Call," by Margaret Downing, November 28].

Last spring, teachers at my school were given a sample TAKS test. The majority of us immediately voiced skepticism that most of our students could pass it because it involves teaching reading skills, not the shortcuts and gimmicks we learned in past years to remediate TAAS failures.

The really ironic part of this is that I believe the key to improving TAKS scores calls for less, not more, direct teaching, a concept that flies in the face of overtrained pedagogues. Students should be allowed more free reading time and be tested on their abilities to interpret required readings. We have allowed media to stimulate; perhaps we need good, old-fashioned books to calm them and impart thoughts deeper than can be discussed.

I teach journalism, a class that's rare in HISD because of fear and ignorance. Having been in four HISD schools, I learned that the common element is that all administrators wanted a tight rein on the flow of information out of schools; therefore, the very idea of a school newspaper as a free forum for student opinion strikes fear into the hearts of most of them.

Indeed, HISD's former PR expert Terry Abbott endeavored to control the entire flow of information to the local media, rendering Houston Chronicle school coverage laughably inconsequential.

From what I've seen, the TAKS objectives are directly addressed in a good journalism class that engages students to think and read newspapers daily. Having taught history and English, I can say that no other class more directly addresses the reading issue focusing on high-interest, salient issues. Properly taught, such a class is lively, controversial and will be perceived as a dangerous hotbed of radical thought by the petty tyrants now in charge of Texas schools. Any wonder we test so low while more freewheeling, Upper Midwest states (such as Iowa) score much higher?

Donald Johnson

Low on Lee: Thank you for this great article on the new TAKS. I was especially interested in the comments made by the Lee High School principal.

This principal forced all of the seasoned teachers to leave Lee High. Many of the remaining students were taught by those seasoned teachers. However, this school will look like an educational disaster zone when those students leave the school.

How does this principal justify asking his seasoned teachers to retire? What did he gain by running off the veteran teachers?

Elaine Bluitt

Fantasyland: You had me laughing so hard I almost puked my Wheaties! HISD has been living in fantasyland for so long that even the administrators believe the BS they repeat each year:

• The quote that "we have created TAAS robots." Good God, for years they've been teaching TAAS to their students, who still can't pass the test. They have been creating TAAS "robots" that couldn't spell cat even if you spotted them the C and the A.

• Bilingual education is a waste of taxpayers' money and is a disservice to the children in HISD. Just look at the rise in test scores after California dropped its bilingual program.

• Oh, my goodness! We require new students to learn about the history of our nation? Shame on us. Wow, that is just so racist!

• Amstutz sees no link between rising TAAS scores and the flat Texas scores on college entrance SAT tests. Well, duh! All they've been teaching for years is the TAAS test and not the subject matter. Teach the subject matter and SAT scores will improve!

Ultimately, the responsibility for learning a subject belongs with the student (and parents) and no one else. HISD should pass the sliver of wisdom to their esteemed students.

David K. Wilson

Wonderful Rubbish

Talented band: Your article on Pure Rubbish was fantastic ["Glamorous Youth," by John Nova Lomax, November 28]. I interviewed these kids back when I was the assistant music producer at Microsoft Sidewalk.

I also took Hobart Roland to the show you wrote about when I worked at the Press! They are really some talented young men, and I hope the best for them. Very weird to see them on MTV.

I think you're doing one hell of a job. Keep it up.

Julie Bifano

Second-half score: I think you should write about the other half of Pure Rubbish, J.T. and Mike. In most articles written about them, people include only Evan and Derek, so people are just going to know them as two brothers in a band with the unknown. J.T. and Mike have a wicked talent that should be recognized also.

Ashley Nash
Deer Park

Dems Don't Get It

Minorities and the election: I was appalled by the comments of Chris Bell (and other Democrats) in Tim Fleck's Insider column ["Bush Envy," November 14]. How typical of the Democratic Party to blame people of color for its failures.

Party leaders are flailing about, pointing fingers in a pathetic attempt to explain their spectacularly poor showing in the election. Republicans won races not because the "black and brown" people just couldn't get their act together but because Democrats didn't commit themselves to the hard work it takes to organize them.

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