In support of charter schools

More than 100,000 students in Connecticut still don’t have access to the high-quality education they need and deserve. That is truly a topic worthy of examination and “rethinking.”

Diana Rosen’s column (“Rethink Charter Schools,” Aug. 29) discounts both history and progress in its assertion that the expansion of all state charter schools should be “re-evaluated” based on the singular, egregious situation at FUSE. Public charter schools throughout the state support a thorough investigation into the issues at FUSE; it is inaccurate and unfair to paint all of the state’s public charter schools with the same broad brush.

In 1999, Amistad Academy opened its doors in New Haven. A public charter, Amistad Academy today ranks among the top five schools in Connecticut for English Language Learner student performance. Its graduates, who go on to Achievement First Amistad High, are the highest-performing African-American and low-income high school students in Connecticut according to the recent ConnCAN report cards. At AF Amistad High, 100 percent of graduating seniors gain acceptance to college. Achievement First has grown to serve 11 schools in Connecticut because of its track record of student academic progress and overwhelming parental demand. To insinuate otherwise is to ignore the facts.

Our state is home to many great public charter schools that provide high-quality choices for families in our most historically underserved communities. New Haven is also home to Common Ground High School, which the state named a “School of Distinction” because of its students’ strong academic progress. The school inspires many of its graduates to study science, with one-third pursuing an environmental field of study in college. Schools like these are vital to our community.

All of us must do more to serve students — especially African-American and Latino students — in a state where the quality of a student’s education is all too often determined by his race or class. Connecticut has one of the widest achievement gaps in the country. This must change.

In order for change to happen, those with influence and power should find ways to support successful schools, instead of looking for ways to hinder them.

Candice Dormon

Sep. 4

The writer is associate director of New Haven Community Engagement at Achievement First.

On the Shipman controversy

Deborah Lipstadt’s New York Times op-ed on growing expression of anti-Semitism in Europe and Yale Episcopal Reverend Bruce Shipman’s letter in response have generated important discussion of difficult issues. Expression and acts of anti-Semitism are influenced by the interplay of three types of individuals and organizations: 1) strongly and actively anti-Semitic; 2) weakly and quietly anti-Semitic; and 3) not anti-Semitic.

Containment of anti-Semitism depends on the will and effort of the not anti-Semitic individuals and groups within a society. When this moderate and moderating segment of society is quieted, discouraged or otherwise disempowered, the strongly and actively anti-Semitic element is emboldened, more active and able to engender anti-Semitic activity by weakly anti-Semitic elements.

Lipstadt’s op-ed fails to appreciate the way actions by the Israeli government and military dangerously weaken the critically important containment of anti-Semitism by moderate elements. Focus on the actions of strongly anti-Semitic elements, and failure to appreciate the broader social dynamics that govern the spread of anti-Semitic expression and action, makes it impossible to effectively address the problem. Reverend Shipman’s letter to the Times describes actions by Israel that undermine the ability of moderate elements to contain extreme ones. The subsequent attacks on Reverend Shipman further undermine the containment process and exacerbate the problem they seek to limit.

Bruce E. Wexler

Sep. 3

The writer is a professor emeritus of psychiatry.