Time to enforce rules? at Gallagher Beach

The most recent spate of warm summer weather has Buffalo area residents seeking ways to beat the heat, with area beaches well attended. The News has often published photos of sweltering individuals enjoying the cool water of Gallagher Beach, despite the posting of a single sign proclaiming "No Swimming, No Lifeguard on Duty." The other sign present, asking people to clean up after their dogs, is also obviously disregarded, as anyone who wants a no-leash experience for Fido knows he can have it here. Disposal of human excrement is also an issue, with a single portable toilet on site, which is usually found vandalized by Monday morning. The parking lot has not been striped in years, causing road rage when drivers are blocked in, or access to the water by windsurfers or kayakers is blocked by vehicles parked helter-skelter. Monday morning will also find debris to include discarded footwear and clothing, as well as cans and bottles.

As an avid windsurfer, I have observed these conditions and more. Safety issues are numerous, including toddlers unattended at the water's edge, youths jumping off the fishing pier into shallow water and, this past Sunday, a power boater attempting to pull tubers from the midst of the crowd of swimmers, oblivious to his turning propeller. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority apparently feels it is good judgment to create an attraction, and then ignore the obvious lack of patrol and enforcement of regulations. Even with area beaches available at Beaver Island, Woodlawn and beyond, there is still the market for a location where "no rules" behavior abounds. The inevitable tragedy will stir action by the NFTA, but it needs to act before the fact, not after.

Michael Celej



Buffalo Public Schools ?should scrap TERC math

The overall appalling results on the fourth-grade math proficiency test by students in Buffalo demonstrate once again the failure of the chosen textbook series for K-5 titled, "Investigations in Number, Data and Space" by TERC, which is touted on the Buffalo Schools website as "a curriculum that supports students to learn to think mathematically."

The fact that the city had bought into this bogus program for mathematics was brought to my attention in 2010 by a concerned Buffalo teacher who actually wanted students to learn. Most Buffalo teachers do. However, they are prevented from teaching by administrators and math education "experts" who subscribe to what I denounced in a May 1997 letter in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society as "computer-assisted mathematical incompetence." While calculator or computer experimentation can be useful, especially for illustrating theorems in high school geometry, basic student mastery of the algorithms of arithmetic in K-5 is non-negotiable.

Harvard mathematics professor Wilfried Schmid offered the following reflections on the radical pedagogy employed by TERC: "A TERC teacher doesn't explain, and a TERC teacher doesn't teach. I don't want to be misunderstood: group learning and discovery learning are parts of the tool chest of every accomplished teacher, but it is folly to turn these techniques into an ideology. If we mathematicians had to rediscover mathematics on our own, we would not get very far. And indeed, TERC does not get very far. By the end of fifth grade, TERC students have fallen roughly two years behind where they should be."

Incoming Buffalo Superintendent Pamela Brown should move Buffalo immediately to a Singapore-type program for K-5 mathematics. Regents need to make certain that doctoral granting programs in mathematics education have the needed adult supervision from hard-nosed mathematicians.

Richard H. Escobales Jr.



Schools must re-evaluate? reading lists, supply lists

I am a retired educator with more than 40 years of experience. There is a growing trend among our schools that needs to be re-evaluated. Schools have gotten carried away with summer reading lists and school supply lists the past few years. Both create tension among parents and students and do little to enhance learning.

Don't get me wrong. I believe every student should read every day all year long. Summer is no exception. However, the reading lists I see that have mandatory readings from elementary to high school are incorrect in their assumption about learning. First, to choose a book for any grade assumes all children at that grade level can read it independently. Teachers know this is not true. In addition, to merely assign a book without probing prior knowledge, going over new vocabulary or giving a purpose for the reading is under-teaching the book and has limited impact in learning. In addition, parents are forced to purchase most books because the public libraries don't have sufficient copies. I have witnessed many kids buying the Cliff Notes or Spark Notes instead. The solution is to allow kids to pick their own choice in reading. Parents could send a note indicating what was read. The motivation to read would be greatly enhanced if kids had input into the readings.

Recently I read a school supply list. Why does a fourth-grader need 10 composition notebooks, a box of red pens, a box of black pens, several color-specific folders, a box of markers, a box of crayons, a box of colored pencils and a dozen other items? Do schools realize the expense of all these items? I have seen many of these supplies wasted or unused in my travels around to classrooms. These items are more about teacher preference than enhancing learning.

Many think these reading lists and school supply lists prove the child is attending a demanding school. They do nothing to create learning. The only thing they create is tension among schools, teachers, parents and students. We must rethink these lists.

Robert E. Gallagher

North Tonawanda


Congress needs to honor promises made to troops

Even with job openings on the rise, the slow rate of U.S. hiring won't be able to absorb the nearly 30 percent of young male veterans who still don't have jobs. That alarming percentage could grow wildly if the Pentagon lays off an additional 100,000 troops this year, according to news reports. Meanwhile, leaders in Washington want to raise veterans' health care premiums by 300 percent to save money and cut the deficit.

This is no way to honor the sacrifices our troops have made in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it won't solve the real problem of Pentagon spending: inefficient bureaucracy that is wasting tens of billions of dollars each year due to unrealistic requirements and long delays. For instance, the Joint Strike Fighter was originally billed as an affordable fighter jet. Now it's nearly a decade late and 75 percent over budget, costing an estimated $1 trillion and growing – the most expensive defense program in history.

Reasonable reforms proposed by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates would deliver equipment faster and save billions – enough to keep veterans' health care affordable and help new veterans find jobs. By fixing spending problems, we can honor the promises we've made to our troops.

Constance Burns

President, National Association of American Veterans