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Contemplating the Death of Rigoberto Ruelas

LA Times columnist Sandy Banks was at the funeral of teacher Rigoberto Ruelas and penned a column over the weekend. It’s an interesting piece that navigates a pretty fine line–acknowledging that Ruelas was beloved as a teacher by students, parents and the community at large, while largely dismissing the notion that publishing “value-added” test scores on the Times’ website, depicting Ruelas as a “less effective” teacher, could have contributed to his suicidal depression.

On my drive to work that morning, I listened to callers on KPCC’s AirTalk, many of them parents like David, who applauded The Times for naming names, raising a ruckus, sparking a national debate that might hurry the pace of local reform.

“We need that. … Teachers can’t hide,” David said, his voice breaking as he talked about moving his daughter from school to school in Los Angeles. “She lost two years,” he said, because she got stuck with teachers who were inadequate.

But I got a different message in the church that night, from the burly man who broke down at the mike and the mothers wearing sunglasses to hide their swollen eyes. They told stories in Spanish that I didn’t quite understand, about bicycles and shared sandwiches and music lessons, but there was no mistaking the love in the air.

To them, some things might matter more than a 10-point jump on a math exam. Ruelas earned their gratitude and their confidence; he reminded them of all their children could accomplish.

Previously on FBLA: LA Times Responds To Teacher Suicide

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