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High-stakes testing ?won't improve schools

Having served on a local school board for many years, I am very concerned about the obsession with testing in our classrooms and how we are going to pay for it. Somebody thought high-stakes testing was a good idea because of a concern that drop-out rates were high and graduation rates were low.

In reality, that is not the case in the majority of school districts. The solution should target the problem not blanket the entire education community. People need to know that good teaching and learning need room for creativity. That does not happen by whipping out another test. Rather than a one-size-fits all "solution" to "reform" districts, we need to address the specific problem, and nurture the diversity of talents and interests among our students. Then the results will be positive.

We must target our spending and resources carefully. Funding from the state is seriously eroded, and local funding is limited by the tax cap. Most districts have cut staffing and increased class sizes, yet must implement the state's new teacher and principal evaluations systems that will cost more time and money.

Now the federal fiscal cliff also threatens school district funding. The sequestration cuts would cut into funding for Title 1 aid for disadvantaged students and aid for students with disabilities. Special education services are mandated, so school districts would have to make up the difference. This would mean diverting money from other programs and services.

Once we get done paying for all the tests, who is going to be left to teach the students?

Janice Dalbo

West Seneca School Board Member

West Seneca

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Palestinians deserve ?to gain full state status

Let me be the first to congratulate the Palestinians on their recognition of status of state in the United Nations. For too long, they have struggled against the Israeli apartheid and oppression. I hope they take this opportunity to seriously participate in the peace process and eventually gain full state status. As for the lack of U.S. and Israeli support, the majority of the world has spoken and cannot be wrong.

Michael J. Bowen

Gulf War veteran

Cheektowaga

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Insurance carriers are? flaw in mammography

Dr. Anna Chen and Dr. Thomas Summers, in their Nov. 29 Another Voice, are right on with regard to mammography, which has significantly improved over the last few decades, as have the radiologists who read the images. It is the best, lowest-cost, mass screening tool we currently have, with limitations. When additional resources are needed because of these limitations, the more definitive tool in diagnosing breast cancer is MRI (MR Mammography). With regard to diagnostic breast imaging, the major "flaw" in the system is the insurance carriers.

I have been on the phone for an entire afternoon to get a patient's breast MRI authorized, received approval from the insurance carrier's physician (an internist in California) following a peer-to-peer review, only to have to jump through all the hoops all over again when I call the local carrier back. Are you kidding? Your expert physician just approved it, right there in your computer system, on your screen as we speak. It's Friday, 5 p.m. Eastern time, sorry Ms. Smith, we couldn't get your MRI authorized, so you won't know if you have breast cancer until next week. That is if you don't follow the insurance carrier's algorithm that says you can wait six months for a follow-up mammogram.

Buffalo has excellent diagnostic breast imaging capabilities and radiologists who interpret them. Trust the patients, physicians and radiologists when this is needed, not the insurance carriers.

Michael Czech, RDMS

Colden

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Hospice workers ?do incredible job

I have had two recent experiences with hospice and I just can't say enough good about it. A close friend passed and hospice was there with him to take care of any of his needs through the final months.

Last week, I lost my sister. Hospice cared for her at home and then transferred her to its in-patient facility for 2 4/7 care. Not only did the caregivers manage her pain very well, but they were patient in answering all of my questions as things came up that I didn't understand.

While we are asked to deal with the dying process occasionally, the hospice professionals deal with it daily. It takes a special kind of person to do that. They called me the week before she passed to tell me they noticed that her birthday was coming up and wanted to know if they could do a cake or flowers as appropriate. They also called our home after her passing to express their condolences. Their compassion and concern is not just with the person in their care, but with the family and friends also.

If you know someone who works for hospice, thank him or her. They sure deserve it.

Richard DeLisle

West Seneca

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Jobs and family are key? to combating recidivism

What do Miss America 2012 and PeaceprintTM Prison Ministries have in common? Both care deeply about the children of incarcerated parents. As the daughter of a former inmate, Laura Kaeppeler uses her celebrity to bring awareness to the hardships that many children of prisoners experience. Although she has been criticized for choosing this topic as her platform, it does not trivialize the stigma that most children of convicts endure on a daily basis. Imagine the humiliation and pain of being branded and bullied in school for having a parent in prison.

PeaceprintTM Prison Ministries in Buffalo is an impressive, faith-based organization providing programs that maintain relationships with families and children during imprisonment. (Sex offenders are not included.) Family support is a huge part of minimizing recidivism, just as education and jobs may reduce the relapse into criminal behavior. Every year, more than 1,200 individuals are released from prison to Erie County communities. Some are required to live in transitional homes for reconciliation, rehabilitation and restoration. In the long run, they need homes, training and, most of all, jobs.

Why should ex-offenders receive privileged treatment, when law-abiding citizens can't find a job during these difficult economic times? We don't have an answer to that other than that everybody deserves a second chance, especially if there are children involved. Jobs and family are key to a successful re-entry into society. Organizations like PeaceprintTM Prison Ministries deserve recognition for making our communities a tad safer.

Krista Schwartzott

North Collins

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Angelika Summerton

Silver Creek