Topics range from standardized tests, to government waste, to West Coast states' leadership.

Reliance on PSAT is failing our students

It's been several weeks since the results of the PSAT (the preliminary test once known as the Scholastic Assessment Test) have come out to all the high school juniors in Oregon — the results those juniors have been dreading for a long time.

What makes this test so special? In the PSAT, students nationwide are expected to sit through a three-hour-long test, complete the intentionally tedious passages and unconventional math problems. Half a year later, only the top 1 percent of scorers will be selected to become a National Merit Semifinalist, allowing them to gain full tuition scholarships to dozens of universities across the United States. The selection is precisely why we still live the most ridiculous academic system today: how we value our children based on how well they score on a test.

A person's worth, according to this test, no matter how intelligent, genuine and kindhearted they really are, is suddenly in the hands of four digits. Not only that, these digits are what determines the difference between a full tuition education and a lifetime of college debt.

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of standardized testing itself. It's unitary, somewhat reliable and measurable across millions of students and factors. I was an SAT scorer in the 99th percentile myself. But what is wrong is the fact that colleges defer applicants, offer scholarships to others, judge a student's overall intelligence solely by the test score.

Given the harsh consequences of not scoring well, colleges using PSAT scores an archaic idea that should be unacceptable by today's standards. We should not allow Collegeboard to define our children. We must let them define themselves.

(Ryan Williams is a father and professional tutor in the Beaverton area.)

Ryan Williams


Constant waste hurts all Oregonians

As the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) continues to bankrupt the state of Oregon, and the laundry list of waste by our state and city officials continues to grow, one can only wonder how this constant ongoing embarrassing spending and waste continues.

Everyone says vote out the folks who waste the money, in a two-party broken system this seems like a fallacy.

Homeless problems seem to get worse. I'm 58 years old and work two jobs to keep up on my ever-increasing property taxes that have gone up 150 percent in the past 18 years. I have projects that need to be done but can't afford to fix. So how does this problem end? Apparently after we are all homeless and can't pay our property taxes any further.

This ongoing waste has me personally about one tax hike away from being homeless, nothing that could have been anticipated through any amount of prior research. Cover Oregon, the over-budgeted tram project, the constant waste of monies on the Columbia River Crossing project that never happened are just a fraction of the examples of how our leaders have wasted our hard-earned money and no hope in fixing the broken PERS system. How are Oregonians expected to survive? I vote "no" on every monetary bind issue, despite the fact that the state is being run into the ground, despite that what is one supposed to do as we see our state going down the drain.

At least PERS recipients can enjoy a good retirement apparently with a clear conscience.

James Maass


Entire West Coast needs new leaders

I agree with Rep. Richard Vial ("It's time for West Coast leaders to talk traffic," opinion column in the Dec. 14 issue). The problem is that the change he wants will not happen in California, Oregon or Washington until we have different leadership.

We have traffic gridlock because of all the California immigrants. Can we blame them? Right now, environmentalists have the California Assembly in a death grip. No new development. We have to be able to accommodate growth and maintain environmental quality at the same time.

This can be accomplished if both parties adopt a win-win philosophy. The problem is that the West Coast is politically dominated by the slow motion utopians. By incremental means, your life, cradle to grave, is to be totally dominated by the state. These folks are not about freedom and prosperity. They are about control.

Until the critical mass starts getting it, the utopians will remain in control.

Scott Holland


Trump's tax proposals will hurt many taxpayers

Everyone will be impacted by the Trump tax plan. Even if you've never contacted a congressman or woman, now may be the time. I have written to Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merckley, and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, the following:

"I am a 78-year-old 'middle-income' constituent, born and raised in Portland, and who finally retired here. I believe my situation is typical for Oregon seniors who have planned, worked, saved, and finally were able to retire relatively comfortably. My wife of 55 years and I have a gross income of about $75,000 a year, have a mortgage, fairly heavy medical bills, donate liberally to charities, and of course pay state and county taxes. Our income comes from pensions, Social Security, and withdrawals from our IRAs.

"I have run the numbers for 2015, 2016 and 2017 with the 'Trump Tax Calculator' on, for both the House and the Senate versions of the bill. In every case, I was disappointed to find that I would be paying MORE tax for every version, every year, than I currently am. This varies from $110 to $2,035 per year for the three years. This tax 'cut' will benefit low-income people, super-rich, and corporations, but at the expense of people like me — especially seniors who have no recourse or time to adjust our financials. This is a travesty — it won't put us in the poorhouse, but our grandchildren will be paying for it years from now, when the $1.5 trillion-plus increase in the deficit finally has to be dealt with."

I closed with a recommendation for mitigating the impact on seniors.

I would suggest that you run your own numbers with this program, and see what comes up, and contact your congresspeople.

Jerry Larsen

King City

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