The editorial headline “ ‘Effective’ teachers for all? Yes, please” (July 22) shares much in common with the equally unreasonable title “No Child Left Behind.” The latter left much behind — struggling students and the schools punished with a system of “make or break” testing.

Neither will all teachers everywhere be effective. But the next phase of myopic federal reform has an impressive army of teachers marching to struggling schools in poor neighborhoods.

What’s wrong with that? First, sending a “great” teacher from a great school, but who is untested in a struggling school, is risky business. As education researchers might suggest, better to pilot a program before sending thousands of incentivized teachers to flop and flee in the toughest schools.

Second, any forced transfers of “great teachers” to tough schools will add to high levels of teacher attrition. The current professional burnout rate is three to five years. Even with a $10,000-a-year honorarium to sweeten the transfer process (totally justified), many would consider this hazard pay at best.

Third, the great teachers might already be there, the ones who academically were not the original stars of the classroom, but who remain dedicated to these tough neighborhoods. They are invaluable (and unquantifiable) among the dadless, neglected children.

There will always be room for classroom improvement, but let’s continue to build from the inside, with ample economic and tactical support for education’s most dedicated (and underserved) teachers.

Steve Watson, Minneapolis

MIDEAST CONFLICT

Our experience there was persuasive enough

My husband and I lived in the Middle East, he for 11 years and I for seven and a half. While there, we met families and individuals who were personally affected by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (“ ‘Other side’ of Gaza story is not convincing,” Readers Write, July 23). Later we were privileged to visit Israel, where we lived in Bethlehem with Palestinian people, visiting in homes and rehabilitation facilities, experiencing life as they lived it.

Traveling to Jerusalem, we shared space in public cars, from which we observed the humiliation of the Palestinian people at border crossings. In Jerusalem, we observed lines of Palestinian men who were waiting for work, hoping to be hired. These men were under the surveillance of Israeli personnel. I observed a young Israeli soldier taunt an older Palestinian woman at a water fountain. (He stopped when confronted.)

We experienced a very limited water supply, piped into the place where we stayed. When we drove by settlement areas, we saw lush green gardens.

I could go on. We visited with an Israeli government official and a rabbi, each interested in a peaceful solution. We requested a visit to a Jewish settlement, but were not able to obtain an invitation.

Though we are back in the United States, we maintain contact and great interest in this terrible situation. We applaud Sylvia Schwarz for her honesty and bravery (“The other side of the Gaza story,” July 22). She articulated very well what we have observed and experienced.

Dawn Fairbank, Brooklyn Center

• • •

I am tired of people choosing sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am an Israeli-American, the daughter of Holocaust survivors and born and raised in Israel.

I believe we need creativity in forming a political solution rather than criticism of one side or the other, which encourages war.

Individuals in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza want peace above all. Both deserve to live in their land and live lives free of war. The world could help them by holding both sides accountable and pressuring them for a solution. An economic reward could be an incentive. Peace will require compromise and strong will.

Mostly, I think of the young generation on both sides, growing up in fear, which will morph into hate.

Dorit Miles, Minnetonka

• • •

Regarding “ ‘Lone soldiers’ volunteer, fight and sometimes die for Israel” (July 23): Shouldn’t these American Jews traveling to a distant land to engage in armed conflict be prosecuted as terrorists? It seems that would be the case if they were Somali. Hypocrisy at its finest.

Richard Neuwirth, Minneapolis

 

VLADIMIR PUTIN’s IMPACT

It would be comedic if it weren’t so tragic

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to explain away the Malaysian airplane disaster in Ukraine remind me of a man who has gone to the railway station and arrives just as the train is pulling out. Now he is running down the tracks after it in an attempt to grab the caboose.

Elizabeth Johnson, Columbia Heights

• • •

Putin is the composite of every villain who has ever appeared in a James Bond movie. Where is Bond when one needs him?

Candy Hunt, Woodbury

 

ELEPHANTS

At Ringling Bros., we treat our animals well

The July 23 commentary “Elephants: For our respect, not our amusement” made a number of false allegations about the care and training of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey elephants. The commentary claimed that circuses like Ringling Bros. are abusive. This could not be further from the truth. All of the elephants with Ringling Bros. are trained in a safe and humane manner, and the behaviors seen in our performances are indeed based on natural behaviors elephants display in the wild (yes, elephants do stand on their hind legs — I’ve seen it).

Our trainers and elephant care professionals are highly experienced and skilled and use only approved tools when working with these large animals. In addition, the commentary correctly pointed out that these animals, particularly Asian elephants, are highly endangered. That is why Ringling Bros. has made a commitment to Asian elephant conservation, with a portion of each ticket going to our research and conservation programs not only in the United States but in the elephants’ range countries as well.

Rather than drawing conclusions based on animal-rights groups’ “facts” about elephants, Star Tribune readers should learn more about the animal care and conservation at Ringling Bros. by visiting www.elephantcenter.com or by attending a Ringling Bros. performance.

Stephen Payne, Vienna, Va.

 

The writer is vice president of communications for Feld Entertainment.