Lyme Disease Ordeal

Thank you so much for the article on Lyme disease in Loudoun County ["Lyme Disease Triples; High Among Children," Dec. 5]. Your article only scratched the surface of the problem we have here in the county. My family has been dealing with Lyme disease over the past year and a half, maybe longer. Unlike the family in your story, I never tested positive on the routine test that my doctor performed, therefore I went undiagnosed. It has been a constant struggle to find answers. In the search, I have learned more about Lyme disease than I ever wanted to know. I also recognized symptoms of the disease in my 3-year-old daughter, who has it as well. We never had the telltale rash, which I now know is just as likely to be absent as it is present.

We have been to numerous doctors in this area seeking treatment. There is great controversy over this disease and much bogus information out there. A lot of new information has come out over the last few years, and our doctors need to be updated on it. They have believed up until now that we did not have a problem in our area and that they did not need to know a lot about this "northern" disease.

In our cases, the standard treatment has not been enough to cure us--the bacteria has been in our systems too long and is not so easily eradicated. I believe the number of people with Lyme is much higher that the statistics show. The guidelines for reporting cases are so stringent that only cases with the rash or a positive test are allowed to be reported--this leaves both my case and my daughter's out of the numbers. I also believe that many cases are being missed in our area--we need to educate our doctors to recognize less clear-cut cases as well. If I had not done the research myself, we would still be undiagnosed and getting sicker instead of better. I don't want to see any family have to go through what mine has in the last year.



The Flaws of SOL Testing

The Standards of Learning (SOLs) are of dire concern for all of us due to the very substantial financial investment SOL test implementation requires. One test should not determine a student's entire future but should instead constitute one piece of an entire picture.

For example, some students are outstanding in science, work hard and receive passing grades in all of their classes, yet still may not pass the English SOL. Should one test determine whether a student such as this graduates? Remember--his grades are good, his teachers see that he works hard and turns in assignments, maybe he has made several speeches in class that reflect his practical use of the language and ability to explain scientific experiments. One SOL result, ignoring his or her passing grades, teacher evaluations, life experience and other strengths, should not, I submit, determine whether a student like this graduates.

Some students may never pass the SOLs but know and understand more about being wonderful, kind human beings than many "normal" people will ever understand. The idea that somehow these people are not worthy of praise for their "A" in human kindness, hard work in school, persistence and understanding repulses me--that an SOL test determines how "well" or "badly" a school is doing--repulses me. SOL tests should be one part of overall assessments based on many factors, such as kindness (especially necessary these days), citizenship, persistence, attitude, academic achievement, life experience, volunteer time, etc. No one test can measure more than a sliver of a person's intelligence.

We have deep concerns about the one-size-fits-all philosophy of standards and testing that this program reflects.

This system has serious flaws, as noted not only by parents and teachers but by prominent Virginia researchers and scholars. Even the state Board of Education have called it a "work in progress" that needs "fine-tuning." And still we move forward as though it were a finished and proven product, sinking more and more resources and more children's lives into the morass as we go.

Do not assume, however, that we oppose high standards and expectations. What we do oppose is what the Virginia SOL program represents: identical, detailed standards for all children which neither recognize nor respect their diverse talents, needs, interests or starting places. This attitude is, in itself, a very low standard. We can do better, much better, than this.

For some children, the standards are impossibly high ones that they will never reach. For some children, the standards are impossibly low ones that they can reach and surpass without breaking a sweat. A set of one-size-fits-all standards fits none.

What the SOLs have done to my child and his education is to create a lock-step curriculum where everyone learns the same thing on the same day at the same time. Then, as if that weren't bad enough, his understanding and mastery of the subject is tested by a 50-item multiple choice test. Children's learning cannot be reduced to one test score. These are high stakes, one-point-in-time tests. Any child can have a bad day.

Research tells us that what will work to improve genuine education over the long haul are smaller classes, smaller schools, early education, better-trained teachers and more equitable funding. What does not work, according to research, are external pressures and threats in the form of high-stakes testing.

History will judge us all harshly if we acquiesce to an unproven and harmful system of accountability built on nothing but raising a set of standardized test scores. We are all accountable for providing a truly high quality education designed to meet the needs and abilities of all children. We must help them develop the knowledge and skills they need for success as lifelong learners and responsible citizens in a democracy.

It will take true leadership to tell the Commonwealth of Virginia to let local communities and parents take charge of their schools. We are counting on our School Board and the Board of Supervisors for that leadership because our children's education and their futures are at stake.

Find your voices on the SOL issues. Just say "no" to high-stakes (not all) testing--the money is better used for smaller classes. Testing can be part of overall assessment, but it should not, as in Europe and other places that have failed to compete successfully with U.S. creativity, end up as a way to "track" students. Albert Einstein did not do well in his early school years and is one example of a person who may have been stifled before he had even begun by an SOL system such as the current one.

Please fight for a fair, visionary testing system--not this dogmatic, short-sighted one. For as long as it takes. For all our children.




Hitting the Nail on the Head

I read Mark Steckbeck's letter to the editor ["Activists' Extreme Position," Dec. 9], and I wanted to thank him for expressing his feelings in such a credible and objective manner. The points he makes so well are the very ones we in the building and development industry have been espousing for quite some time now, but alas, they have fallen on deaf ears.

We believe, as I am sure many others do, that it is only the "vocal minority" heavily influenced by Voters to Stop Sprawl and the Piedmont Environmental Council that seek to tell all of us who live and work in Loudoun County what is good and what is not good for us.

As a nearly 20-year resident of Loudoun County and as the 2000 president of the Loudoun Chapter of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association (NVBIA), I share his sentiments that the quality of life we have here in Loudoun (and for which we are the envy of many) is directly related to new housing and related development.

Our newly elected county Board of Supervisors has pledged to do everything they can to slow down growth, which in turn will have a dramatically negative effect on our local and regional economies. In fact, they intend to set aside $1 million of our own taxpayer's money in a "war chest" in part to defend themselves against possibly illegal actions taken to implement their "slow growth" initiatives.

I hope Mr. Steckbeck and his friends and neighbors will show your support for our industry by speaking up at public hearings and sharing their feelings and beliefs with their supervisor and planning commissioner.




Loudoun Extra welcomes your opinions, which run on Thursdays and Sundays. Letters, which may be edited for length, should include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers so we can verify authorship. Deadlines are noon Tuesday for Thursday publication and noon Thursday for Sunday publication. Send them to:

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305 Harrison St. SE

Leesburg, Va. 20175

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