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Higher SAT Scores - How to Get There

The article "SAT Results Send Mixed Message" (Sept. 8) makes the common assumption that doing well in classes, especially high school English classes, should result in higher verbal SAT scores. As a high school English teacher for the last 27 years and author of three books on reading, I can assure you that the opposite is often the case.

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Much of the work assigned in typical English classes requires little reading and writing. Kids do projects, engage in class discussions, and take objective tests. Usually no more than a handful of books are assigned as reading for a year, and many students don't even read these. They read the Cliffs Notes, watch the video, or ask their more conscientious friends what happened. Why would their reading scores rise?

The solution is to make independent reading a large part of any high school curriculum. This requires large blocks of in-class reading time, good classroom and school libraries, and a teacher willing to take an interest in individual likes and dislikes of students. It also takes a teacher willing to go outside accepted curriculum, which is a very hard thing to do. But it's the only way I've found that ensures students do a great deal of reading.

Mary Leonhardt

Concord, Mass.

The article "Public Schools at a Crossroads" (Sept. 8) failed to mention a major success story: Seattle Public Schools has three straight years of improving SAT scores and now rates better than the rest of the state and the country as a whole. It's become a source of local pride.

Much of the improvement is due to the leadership of Superintendent John Stanford. In my opinion, Mr. Stanford's most effective tool has been his enthusiasm, which has helped remind parents, students, teachers, and administrators that education is critical to each of our futures and deserves some time and effort.

Matt Hays

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Upping the moral ante

Regarding the article "An Effort to Widen Clinton's Shadow" (Sept. 3), as a voter I am looking for candidates whose moral strength prevents them from condemning their opponents, especially on moral grounds. Certainly I do not approve of moral laxity, but I was taught "whosoever is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."

If Clinton is prematurely ousted for moral failings, let us also "oust" his exalted predecessors by removing names like John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas Jefferson from all buildings and boulevards that bear their names and demolishing their statuary. Did they ever apologize for their moral misdeeds? They were never expected to.

If we wise up and insist on "squeaky clean" candidates at all levels, that will be the best way to bring about the moral reform this country needs. And let us trust that we will not be sacrificing brilliance in the process.

Judy Harvey

Macedon, N.Y.

Dishwashing the lazy way

You recently cited a "Heloise's Hints" suggestion in the "Resident Experts" column (Aug. 12) that hot water, baking soda, and elbow grease will clean crusted pots, pans, and dishes. OK, but there is a much better way to go, and it appeals far more to lazy fellows like me - soak 'em in hot water and a dose of dishwasher detergent. It works miracles and rarely needs a scrubbing follow-up. And the stuff is readily available in every kitchen (well, darn near every kitchen).

Keep up the good work on the Homefront, and I also really like the daily sections.

Lance Trusty

Via e-mail

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