Improving our schools

Regarding the recent article (“NHPS tackles poor college readiness,” Jan. 23, 2014), the collective efforts of New Haven’s public high schools to enhance college readiness is a positive step toward providing students with the high-quality education they deserve. Our public schools play a critical role in ensuring that students are prepared to face the demands of college and careers.

Although progress is being made, there is still much work to be done. Currently, fewer than one in three third graders in New Haven are reading at grade level. Students deserve better, and voters agree that we need to improve the public education system to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed. The results of a recent Global Strategy Group survey show that Mayor Harp and other leaders have public opinion on their side to continue and accelerate efforts to improve education for all kids.

As Mayor Harp takes office and becomes an integral part of the city’s Board of Education, we look to her leadership to accelerate the city’s school improvement efforts and ensure all children have access to a high-quality education.

Every child in New Haven should have access to the great teachers, principals and public schools they deserve. We cannot allow success to be limited just to families that can afford it.

Jennifer Alexander

Jan. 28

The author is the chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now.

A failure on mental health

Shocking as Rachel Williams’ account of her journey through Yale’s mental health system is (“We just can’t have you here,” Jan. 24), what shocked me more was how many people who read it seemed unsurprised. Dismayed, perhaps; surprised, no. All too many could recall similar stories, at Yale or at other universities. In short, we assume that the routine mistreatment of students with serious mental health problems is unfortunate but just the way things are. But it needn’t be that way.

Perfunctory examinations, burdensome readmission procedures and putting other factors above students’ safety — the characteristics of the system Ms. Williams describes — must change. Just as Title IX gives students the right to have the sexual assault epidemic taken seriously, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act protects students with serious medical conditions, physical or mental. Federal law proclaims students’ right to reasonable accommodations; involuntary leaves of absence are a last resort.

Yale has recently seen other efforts to impress upon the University the importance of students’ civil rights and to change the institutional culture. What began at Yale as an isolated protest against sexual assault on campus has now become a nationwide movement and a White House Task Force. Standing up for students’ rights here can have impacts far beyond this small corner of Connecticut.

I hope I never have to face the struggles that Ms. Williams faced. But if I do, I want to be at an institution that respects students’ rights and takes mental health seriously. Today, Yale is not such an institution.

Joseph M. Sanderson

Jan. 25