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CONSIDER THE CONDITIONS

Dear Editor,

I appreciate the main the thrust of Ms. Torvik’s article about Finland’s educational system (March 27), but I want to take issue with the cursory treatment of the United States scores in the 2009 PISA test that elevated Finland to a top position and relegated the United States to a “dismal” position. Finland can be regarded an educational “powerhouse” only because its political system has engineered a social system in which poverty is rare.

In his December 2010 blog, Mel Riddile presented the scores in the context of poverty (nassblogs.org/principaldifference/2010/12/pisa_its_poverty_not_stupid_1.html).  Less than 3 percent of Finland’s students live in poverty. At the time of the testing, almost 22 percent of U.S. students were reported living in poverty (with the rate rising). When the U.S. scores were disaggregated by poverty levels, a different picture emerged. In schools with poverty levels of less than 10 percent, the average U.S. score was 551 (Finland’s average score was 536). In U.S. schools with poverty levels between 10 and 24.9 per cent, the average score was 527.

Overall, the U.S. average of 500 still bested many nations with less poverty than our country finds tolerable (Germany, France, Denmark are examples).

Maybe we should be less concerned about the work of teachers and schools and more concerned with the failure of our political establishment to address the growing poverty rate in our nation. It is clear worldwide that poverty has a tremendous effect on academic achievement.

Over the past two decades many politicians, philanthropists, and those eager to “privatize” a slice of the hundreds of billions of public dollars spent annually on K–12 education have bemoaned the poor performance of our students and therefore our teachers. Evidence to the contrary is available but does not support the positions taken by those critics, so it has been left largely unreported.

Many of our public schools do as well as or better than the reported “best” in the world. We need to consider the results in light of the range of conditions in which our students live and learn before judging all schools by the average score.

Ed Parker, Twisp

 

SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS

Dear Editor:

Only 30 years ago, crime victims had no rights, access to crime victim compensation, or services to help rebuild their lives. They were often excluded from courtrooms, treated as an afterthought by the criminal justice system, and denied an opportunity to speak at sentencing.

Yet through decades of advocacy and hard work, the rights of crime victims have come a long way. Today, all states have enacted crime victims’ rights laws and established crime victim compensation funds. More than 10,000 victim service agencies help victims throughout the nation. Despite all the advances, many challenges remain. According to last year’s National Crime Victimization Survey, more than 50 percent of violent crimes are not reported to police.

The Support Center is proud to be one of the 10,000 victim service agencies in the nation.

April 21-27 we will be recognizing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. A march and vigil will be held in Okanogan on April 25 starting at 5:30 p.m. at the front steps of the Okanogan County Courthouse followed by a vigil and refreshments at The Support Center. Please join us. For more information, call (509) 826-3221 or 1-888-826-3221.

Margo Amelong, Executive Director, The Support Center, Omak