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Community Commentary: Smith's generalizations about Newport-Mesa are wrong

February 07, 2012|By Karen Yelsey

It is surprising and disappointing to me that the Daily Pilot gives license to Steve Smith to write a weekly column continuously bashing the Newport-Mesa schools, its school board and the performance of its students.

His misleading, defamatory and malicious articles have been published with apparently no editorial review. Smith selectively picks out bits of information that, taken alone, misinterpret the progress and successes, especially of our Westside schools.

Specifically, with his Feb. 1 column, "City Life: District resistant to change," he states, "instead of building the missing support system and watching the kids hit the ground running when they return to school, we'll [the school board] watch them continue to flounder."

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Smith then goes on to deride me specifically for "not taking any action or being sincerely outraged by this."

Mostly, I am outraged by Smith and the Pilot for publishing Smith's misleading and malicious musing. After reading his most recent article, I would like to point out a number of facts. Apparently, Smith is uncomfortable with facts that don't support his diatribes.

The fact is test scores are lowest in our schools that are heavily impacted with students whose primary language is other than English because the California Standards Tests are administered in English. Further, research demonstrates that it takes five to seven years on average for a student to become fluent in English so that she or he is on par with English-speaking students.

The fact is we have a multifaceted system in place to build a support system to help students learn English as quickly as possible so that they can be successful in English, which then breeds success in other subject areas like history, science and math.

As part of a district-wide reading initiative in 2011, teachers began administering universal reading screenings that target each child, find areas of weakness, plan a course of remediation and work with each child on deficits.

Data show that the system is working. One of the many examples includes a Wilson Elementary School third-grader who started the reading intervention at a kindergarten level and has progressed two grade levels within two months of work. At Whittier Elementary School, huge growth is being seen when students receive additional time to access direct instruction on a skill until mastery is reached.

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