The Trouble With Trucks

The article "Trouble in the Road" [Fairfax Extra, Sept. 9] prompted reflection on the preventable driving perils on Northern Virginia roadways. Two statements in the article hinted at potential solutions, i.e., truck inspections.

"About a quarter of the trucks that authorities stop for suspected safety violations are taken out of service or impounded for violations, many of them for under-inflated or worn tires," the article said.

Also, "In a spot check of 18 trucks on Aug. 20, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office cited insufficient tire tread as one of the violations that led to half of the trucks being ordered off the road."

The paucity of truck weigh stations, coupled with the high percentage of weigh stations closed most of the time in this neck of the woods, is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Burying a statement about those weigh stations deep into the three-page, centerfold article is puzzling.

Readers may be interested to know that drivers of 18-wheelers call tire treads such as those littering the interstates "alligators." Drivers familiar with Interstate 81 in Virginia, Maryland and especially Pennsylvania call it "Alligator Alley-North."

James V. Dolson


Another Look at Math Data

The statements in "Fairfax Parent Challenges School District's Math" [Fairfax Extra, Sept. 16] by Kitty Porterfield, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County public schools, leave an unsubstantiated claim.

Ms. Porterfield claimed that if Fairfax's data were arranged the same way as Anne Arundel County's, Fairfax's students also would have shown "an impressive gain."

I have addressed her claim with two new charts that I have compiled with available data. The first school-based chart shows Anne Arundel rocketing from the 21st percentile to the 93rd percentile in one short year. The second student-based chart shows Arundel jumping from the 42nd percentile to 62 percent in one year. In both cases they are compared to Fairfax's data, which moved from the 46th percentile in 1999 to the 54th percentile in 2002 -- four years and an extra $60 million in taxpayer money.

If Fairfax's data is school-based, the appropriate chart for comparison would be the chart titled "Percent of Schools above National Norm." If Ms. Porterfield meant that the data were school-based and then weighted so that the analysis was at the student level, then the appropriate comparison would be the chart titled "Percent of Students Above National Norm."

One of these two charts now compares the schools on the same basis. These new charts and other charts can be viewed at Fairfax does not look remotely "impressive" to anyone who can read a simple bar chart. Ms. Porterfield's comments are misleading at best.

April Hattori of McGraw Hill talked of the Dallas schools where the "percentage of students passing the state math test rose in all elementary schools after Everyday Math was introduced with the biggest gain in the fourth grade, from 65 percent passing in 2000 to 75 percent passing in 2001."

Note that the statistic is for the children who merely passed the test. These data are very minimum competency scores. The 2001 passing criterion for the fourth grade Texas students was only at the 9th percentile.

What happened in Anne Arundel County's 14 lowest performing schools is far more meaningful than just the impressive statistics.

If these kids stay on this track with proven curriculum like Saxon, they will not only close the achievement gap in mathematics, they are going to have academic and career options in life thought impossible for the majority of children in their socioeconomic status. These kids will now be able to achieve success in algebra and the advanced math beyond what is necessary for careers in medicine, mathematics, engineering, economics and the sciences. That would have been a remote possibility, at best, before Saxon was introduced.

Karen Budd


[Budd was the subject of a Jay Mathews' column on her challenging a decision by Fairfax to use the Everyday Mathematics program in some county schools.]

Local Tibetans

Express Gratitude

On behalf of the Tibetans in the Washington area, I would like to thank the Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Dunn Loring for kindness and generosity in letting us, the Capital Area Tibetan Association's Tibetan School, use its excellent facilities for our weekly class on Tibetan language and culture.

This class, attended by dozens of local Tibetan children, is a crucial component in our efforts to do what we can to preserve and promote the unique Tibetan culture, which is threatened with extinction in Chinese-occupied Tibet.

Living in our adopted country after losing our homeland, we are very grateful to the help shown to us by organizations like the Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Tenzin Lhundup