The more I read the Aug. 5 Commentary piece by Erika Sanzi (“R.I.’s public schools on wrong track”), the more disturbed I became. This situation is nothing short of disastrous.

The writer gives some attention to school autonomy, the replacement of underperforming schools, and the expansion of charter schools, but nothing was written about a real solution to the problem of poorly educated students: curriculum. What is actually being taught?

Reading skills are paramount in the elementary grades. Are children being taught about prefixes and suffixes, compound words, synonyms and antonyms, the use of context clues, finding the main idea of a paragraph, and dividing long words into syllables to learn how to pronounce them? Does anyone teach phonics, which helps students to unlock new words? I think workbooks have gone out of fashion, but that's the place where students practiced these and other skills that are essential to becoming good readers.

How about elementary math skills? Are kids learning math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and are they being drilled on them until the correct response is automatic? How can they hope to learn to do these four operations on integers, fractions and decimals without instant recall of the basics? Can they round numbers up and down and estimate? Do they spend time solving “story problems,” which are as much about reading comprehension skills as mathematical skills? I've heard and read complaints from parents concerning math instruction.

If the curriculum in these troubled schools isn't resulting in success, it needs to be changed.

Judith Stenberg

East Greenwich