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January 12, 2013

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A recent Portland Press Herald story noted that Maine eighth-graders ranked 13th nationally in math in 2011, but a reader says that “rank order can be and often is quite meaningless” unless other variables are taken into account.

Letters to the editor: School rankings math doesn't add up

As a former math teacher and school superintendent, I call on Edward D. Murphy and others (especially our elected officials) to forswear the use of state rankings when discussing education.

For example, in his article titled "School policies ranking: Maine barely passes" (Jan. 7), he reports that Maine eighth-graders ranked 13th nationally in math in 2011. Gov. LePage calls this "drowning in the status quo."

Maine eighth-graders are taught that rank order is meaningless unless they also know the underlying distribution. If the distribution is tightly packed, then rank order can be and often is quite meaningless.

In the case of the 2011 eighth-grade math scores, according to the test website, only eight states have results that are higher by a statistically significant amount -- so Maine's rank is now ninth.

And among those eight states, such as New Hampshire and Colorado, poverty rates are much lower. For example, the population of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch is 41 percent in Maine versus 23 percent in New Hampshire.

Taking poverty into account improves Maine's rank to third -- exceeded only by Montana and Texas. And this pattern plays out in other subjects and grade levels.

Maine public schools are producing results we can all be proud of. Do the math!

Denny Gallaudet

Cumberland

Game boycott by NHL fans would hurt venue workers

I agree that the fans of the NHL suffered from the prolonged strike, and as some suggest, gave some thought to the idea that the fans should boycott and not return to the games. The problem with that approach is those who have been forgotten during the strike would suffer more.

No one in the NHL gave any thought to those whose livelihoods depend on their playing: the employees of the venues where they play, including the vendors, cleaning staff, ticket agents, security and countless others whose wages do not come close to what a hockey player, or team owner, makes.

How many of those people lost their jobs, cars or homes as a result of the strike? No one seems to care about that or them.

Maybe when the owners and highly paid players in any sport argue over the millions of dollars of revenue and who will get it what percentage of it, then go on strike, there should be a rule that assesses each owner and each player a fine every week while the strike lasts.

That money then could go to the workers in the venues where they play so they will continue to be paid while the rich are on strike trying to get richer.

Unfortunately, many of those in professional sports are in the "Yea me and the heck with everyone else" club.

Gary Phillips

Wells

Group gives private schools unfair athletic advantage

I am writing to you about a subject that upsets me and many, many other sports fans in Greater Portland. When is the Maine Principals Association going to level the playing field regarding public and private schools?

There is such an unfair advantage when a school has open enrollment and is taking some of the best athletes from the surrounding city's public schools.

I hear the arguments that it is the right of the students to attend the schools they choose and there is no "recruiting" going on, but you cannot tell me that a student who excels in a sport and wants an advantage to win a state title does not choose one of these private high schools (Catherine McAuley or Cheverus) purely for this reason and not academic ones.

We see it year after year after year. How fair or how much fun is it for the local schools to play these private schools that are loaded with the best athletes from various towns?

I truly believe that if the private schools played each other and the public schools played each other, you would see many students staying in their own town and playing on their local high school teams. I also feel that if this happened, we would see much better competition among all schools.

The MPA should stand up and do what's right and fair!

Elizabeth Flaherty

South Portland

Pair's abandonment of dog no way to treat loving pet

I was saddened to read in the Portland Press Herald about the couple who moved and left a small poodle behind, thinking someone would find it and give it a home ("Maine couple accused of abusing poodle," Dec. 26).

As a pet owner, I get upset when I read about such cruelty to animals. These pets have so much love to give and are so dependent on their owners for food and loving care.

I recently read where six southern California cities already ban circus elephants because of the cruel way they are treated. In several cities in that same area, it is illegal for pet owners to declaw their cats.

My pet cat, Maggie, I brought home from the Animal Refuge League. She was found abandoned in another city. Someone found her hiding in a shed. She was scared and very ill. She had no defense -- she was declawed.

Maggie had been at the Refuge League, in quarantine, for some time. She had recovered and had just been on display. Looking at her in the cage, she looked so tiny and frightened I paid the fees to adopt her that same day!

She has become a loving companion and a happy cat. She's been spoiled, too. She has brightened my life.

I cannot understand people who think nothing of getting rid of a pet, especially when these pets have no way to communicate and no way to defend themselves.

Donald G. Knight

Portland

'Needless' administrative jobs add to city tax burden

Portland has a city manager, a mayor and now a deputy city manager at $125,000 a year.

I'm outraged that instead of trying to consolidate and save money, the city keeps adding on needless positions. No wonder our taxes are so high.

Way to go, again, city fathers.

Ed Reagan

Portland





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