State's algebra success story

Contrary to the common narrative of public education failure, California's made large and measurable gains in the most pivotal math class -- the rigorous world-standard eight and ninth grade Algebra I.

The Algebra I test (CST) is standardized, with the same level of difficulty every year, and an accurate measure of student performance.

In 2003, 151,714 eighth graders took Algebra I and 39 percent (59,168) were proficient or advanced. In 2013, 269,519 eighth graders took Algebra I and 50 percent (134,759) were proficient or advanced.

In 2003, 187,396 ninth graders took Algebra I and 19 percent (35,605) were proficient or advanced. In 2013, 234,830 ninth graders took Algebra I and 25 percent (58,707) were proficient or advanced.

Check this by Googling "star results," click on the year, and view the report for California as a whole (don't select county or district).

Although there's clearly room for improvement, California students and teachers have, contrary to most media portrayals, made massive gains in algebra performance over the last decade, despite being almost last in per-pupil spending. The corporate-driven portrayal of educational failure is false.

John Irminger

Albany

Tea party tactics at local meeting

Recently, Rep. George Miller held a town-hall meeting at Pleasant Hill Elementary School to review current issues facing Congress, including the economy, job creation, the government shutdown, health care, and education.

The large audience was eager to hear his report. Unfortunately, five minutes into his report, Miller was called a "liar" by someone in the audience, who would not stop yelling until he was finally escorted from the room.

Miller handled the outburst graciously, but it was unsettling for the audience and created an unnecessary tension in the room. Another constituent in the audience said, "Free speech is one thing but disruption of a democratic process is quite another." She was right.

It is highly irritating for tea party tactics to be used to try and intimidate our elected representatives and to hijack a meeting for their own purposes. We came to the meeting to listen and ask questions, not to make inflammatory accusations without merit.

Miller gave an outstanding presentation despite the outbursts and I am grateful for that.

Robert V. Zimmerman

Lafayette

Righting wrongs is essential

The members of Congress who voted against the bill that reopened the U.S. government and avoided partial default on our nation's debt wronged the American people by voting to continue damaging our fragile economy and by denying government services to taxpayers.

They also violated their oath to uphold the Constitution's 14th Amendment that states, "The validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned."

Partial righting of these wrongs can be achieved by keeping the government open and by members of Congress and President Barack Obama to negotiate in good faith on the 2013-14 federal budget, the sequester, entitlement reform, tax reform, debt reduction and correcting the serious defects in the Affordable Care Act.

Republican threats to shutdown the government or default are not negotiating in good faith. Democratic and Republican refusal to make significant concessions on the issues is not good faith negotiation.

I hope we can now put the national interests above party and re-election interests, and end the bad-mouthing of opponents.

Hugh Grey

Walnut Creek

Explain how MLB is a monopoly

Now Major League Baseball is under fire for attempting to block the A's move to San Jose. "The act of a monopoly," say attorneys.

In what way is Major League Baseball an unlawful monopoly? There has to be a league of teams to create the product. Any person or persons creating a commodity has the right to sell it throughout the United States.

MLB can't be accused of having the ability to commit the evil aimed at by the Sherman Antitrust Act: extorting unreasonable prices from the public for a product we all must have. Watching people playing games with balls is hardly a necessity of life.

The reason for the Sherman Act was to protect the general public. If an otherwise legal business does not injure the public, you'd think its owners, as a whole, should be able to decide where their outlets can be located.

If MLB is truly an unlawful monopoly under the Sherman Act, Congress and the courts have the duty to tell us how consumers are oppressed by its existence and then dissolve it.

I say: The A's should stay in Oakland.

Monte Hess

Moraga