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It’s Got It All

Thank you, Siobhan Braun, for your multilayered perspective on love, youth, aging, hope, attitudes (for better or for worse), and transcending borders (Cover Story, November 24). This feature is a treasure for the Reader — insightful, delightful, and robustly poignant.

Laura Dvorak
via email

How To Get Through The Gate

Interesting article on the Gate program (Cover Story, November 18). Some points to keep in mind:

The Raven Progressive Matrices test has a test-retest reliability correlation of between 70 and 90 percent. Let’s be generous and take 90 percent.

This does not mean the test is 90 percent reliable in accurately finding Gate kids. It means that a retest shows a 10 percent variation in questions answered correctly.

The Gate program is taking the kids who score in the top 2 percentile on the Raven test. This is a very finely grained selection. They are using a test with 10 percent variation in questions answered, given a retest. While 10 percent is considered very reliable for an intelligence test, it is not reliable when being used to make such a finely grained determination.

Given the 10 percent random variation on retest and the elite 2 percent target that the school district is trying to get into the Gate program, it is possible to calculate how many kids would not qualify for the Gate program on retest who originally qualified for it.

Two out of three kids who qualify for Gate on the Raven test would fail to qualify on retest. A complement of this statement is that two additional kids would qualify for Gate who failed to qualify on the first test.

It is important to understand that this is not an ideological indictment of the Raven test. It is simply a result of using a relatively blunt instrument (the Raven test) to make a very finely grained decision (who are the top 2 percent of the students). It is also important to note that my estimates here are conservative. The reliability is likely lower, especially over time.

Some conclusions:

If you want your kid in Gate and your kid scores above the 90th percentile, get the kid retested. Also, get the kid retested six months or a year later.

We probably should stop paying educators extra who get Ph.D.s. We are not getting our money’s worth sending them off for more education. The statistics outlined here are not particularly hard.

Currently two-thirds of the kids in Gate are not actually in the top 2 percent. This means that the Gate program could be significantly expanded, probably to the top 15 percent of the kids, without significantly impacting the effectiveness of the program. The washout rate would increase, perhaps to 5 percent, but this is not unmanageable.

Brian Gulino
via email

We Have To Go There

Re “Lynn Schenk’s Trip to Spain Questioned” (“Under the Radar,” November 18, print title: “Under Investigation”).

We recognize your article was simply a rehash of an L.A. Times story with no new reporting, but it inaccurately and unfairly mars the name of a person who has been instrumental in bringing high-speed rail to California.

Travel by High-Speed Rail Authority boardmembers to other countries to learn about their high-speed train systems has never been questioned — and, in fact, it has been okayed by the state Fair Political Practices Commission and the state attorney general’s office. What is in question is the authority’s filing of a one-page form to document those trips, and on that aspect, authority state staff are working with the FPPC and are committed to being transparent and accountable.

Because the United States does not have high-speed train systems, it is necessary that those planning California’s system visit other countries to see the technology firsthand.

Jeffrey M. Barker
Deputy Executive Director
California High-Speed Rail Authority

Plenty Of Dirt At Home

Why are we reading about the dirty deeds in far-off Lake County, Illinois (“Where Did the Money Go?” “City Lights,” November 18), concerning a grieving mother, maybe; an embezzler, maybe; a child abuser, maybe; who may or may not be living at Palomar Estates in San Marcos? Did we all of a sudden run out of dirt here in America’s Finest City?

Ron Lux
San Diego

Diversity. Too Much? Too Little?

While I enjoy reading the wide variety of poetry, prose, philosophy, and theology found in the Reader, I have noticed that for the past several weeks the excerpts quoted in “Sheep and Goats” are taken mostly from Islamic works (November 11, pages 70 and 72, for instance).

Could this be the result of an overreaction by the guardians of political correctness who may be embarrassed that much of today’s terrorism is committed by people claiming to be Muslim?

Because of my belief that the 27 books of the New Testament constitute the Creator’s final revelation to mankind, I tend to measure anything that purports to be the truth by that standard. Accordingly, I have found many nuggets of truth in the basic text of Islam, the Quran.

On the other hand, I have also discovered that the prevailing message of the Quran is a call for believers to inflict retribution, punishment, and death upon those perceived to be enemies, oppressors, or infidels.

Muhammad acknowledged the Torah of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus, but he considered the disciples of both to be rebellious unbelievers and infidels (Quran 5:64 and 72).

How would Muhammad deal with these unbelievers? In Surah 8:59 and 60, he said that the infidels must not be allowed to get away; his followers must attack them by whatever arms that can be mustered, striking terror in their hearts.

No wonder so many Muslims think it is their duty to Allah to wage violent jihad against America, the Great Satan!

This outpouring of hatred is in stark contrast to the teaching Jesus gave us in Matthew 5:44 that we must love our enemies and pray for them.

It seems odd that the culture that made modern science possible by introducing the decimal system and algebra into Europe is also the same culture that produced a religion that would send women back 3200 years to a time when the early Greeks were laying siege to ancient Troy.

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