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Florida's computer reading test isn't an improvement

Online reading test has glitches | Oct. 10, story

Computer testing isn't necessarily better

Thank you for your article on FAIR (the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading).

I am third-grade teacher in Pinellas County, so I can personally attest to the frustration experienced by educators as a result of this test. I voiced my concerns directly to Pinellas assistant superintendent Pam Moore in a letter on Sept. 13. I lamented my own lost instructional time as a result of multiple attempts to administer the testing, the delay in receiving vital information about the reading ability of my students, and the delay in my struggling students receiving services (which are contingent upon their assessment scores).

On Oct. 9, after seven weeks of school, I was finally able to access the Web site and administer FAIR to my students. This was after my parent-teacher conferences had already been held and after an entire unit of our reading series (five stories) had been taught.

We teach our children to read through the use of actual books, not computers. We teach them reading comprehension and decoding strategies (go back through the text to find the information needed; underline important information; chunk the word into smaller parts) through the use of printed materials they can touch and manipulate. We should be assessing them in this manner as well. Had we done so this year, we would have had our data at the beginning of September, rather than in mid October.

Just because technology is available does not mean it must be used at all costs.

Jana Bailey, St. Petersburg

A costly time waster

Nine million dollars is a high price to pay for a reading system that is not working. Teachers across Florida were told there was no money for any raises this year or possibly even next year. There was also no money last year as teachers in Pinellas worked on the same contract. Yet there is $9 million to buy a reading program? Who profited from this purchase?

Teachers have always gathered data to drive their instruction. Teachers have what they need already without spending $9 million on a program that is time-consuming and doesn't work! Teachers need to be teaching, not wasting time trying not to be kicked off a computer system that is inferior!

Barbara Smoak Smith, Palm Harbor

Check the caregivers | Oct. 5, editorial

State lawmakers need to act to protect our elders

I echo the concern and call for reform expressed in Sally Kestin's series of articles in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel regarding Florida's vulnerable elders in the care of convicted felons.

The disturbing issue of convicted criminals in direct contact with frail elders in nursing homes and assisted living facilities has been a long-standing problem in our state. As advocates, we have an obligation to honor the generations before us, many of whom must now rely on others to provide the care and quality of life they need and deserve.

While individuals who have committed crimes in the past and paid their debt to society have the right to re-enter the work force and become productive citizens, those who have committed abusive or exploitive crimes such as theft, rape or assault should never be employed in caregiving.

Currently, Florida law mandates facilities to run a Level 1 screening to verify an individual's criminal history in most instances. However, a screening at this level does not identify out-of-state offenses. The only way to ensure a complete criminal history check is to run a Level 2 background screen that authenticates a prospective employee's history against federal and state databases. In nursing homes, assisted- living facilities and adult family care homes, the law is inconsistent as to when these checks should be run, either before or after employment.

The Level 2 background screening should be given prior to an employee's first day and must apply to every person on staff in every facility type, from the direct care nurse to the facility administrator to the individual mopping the floors in the evenings. Running higher level background screenings will minimize potential threat to the already-vulnerable people that call a facility home.

The state Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council makes yearly recommendations to the Legislature that are published in our annual report just before the start of every legislative session. The call for increased levels of background screenings for all direct and nondirect care staff and administration is one that has been on our list for many years. We are excited to see some momentum toward statutory change that will close the loophole that regularly places our state's elders in high-risk situations.

On March 2, the 2010 legislative session will begin. On that day, we owe it to our elders to remember their health, safety, welfare and rights, and champion reform until we see a passable bill on the table.

Don Hering, state council chair, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council, Ruskin

Two nursing homes warned | Oct. 10, story

The best care

My son, Michael Lee Daulton, has been in nursing homes for 27 years after being injured at age 23. He has been living at Bon Secours for 51/2 years, but lived in three other nursing homes previously. He is brain-damaged, quadriplegic and aphasic, but is aware of his surroundings and has limited communication.

I visit daily, interact with staff and make friends with residents and their families. And we share information regarding care of our loved ones. Although unable to participate in many activities, he enjoys the music programs, going outdoors, his biweekly group and their outings.

At Bon Secours, he receives the best care he ever had in an institutional setting. But even more important, he receives loving compassion from staff. I will continue to recommend Bon Secours and will go there to live if necessary.

Joyce Dawson Lagor, Clearwater

We need action, not talk

I keep hearing, via polls, that Gov. Charlie Crist is very well liked. Every time I hear this, I wonder whom are they calling. I wish someone would call me. I'm not happy with our governor. I was so impressed with Gov. Crist when he was campaigning with his speeches focused on his "I understand and I feel your pain" approach.

After he took office it wasn't long before I was wondering, "Where is our governor?" He is great at campaigning, raising money, smiling and kissing babies. It seems like he doesn't want to upset anyone or put his foot down. What I remember of our governor's lack of accomplishments is: Our taxes didn't drop like a rock, and the little bit they did, took away from our firefighters, police, schools and much more. Homeowners insurance is still too high.

The governor will, once again, soon be doing what he does best, campaigning and giving speeches. The people of Florida and America want politicians who produce and not tell us just what they know we want to hear. They should be held to their campaign promises.

This is not a Democratic or Republican opinion, it is simply what we need from our elected officials. I am so tired of people running for office and telling us what we want to hear and nothing getting done.

Arlene Ridder, Hudson

Microcredit model can boost business Sept. 26, commentary

Put this idea to work

Thanks for publishing Ken Schatz's guest column. I was inspired to learn more about microcredit and how it is being used in the United States. The programs require participants to first learn about business and finance, then help each other. That model ensures that a high percentage of the loans are repaid and the resulting businesses are successful. Isn't this the very model of sustainability and community support we need to revive our economy?

Surely the amazing nonprofits and forward-thinking politicians in the Tampa Bay area could help us establish a microcredit program here. I hope you will continue to focus on how to help start small businesses and help them succeed.

Wendy Pressoir, Clearwater

Florida's computer reading test isn't an improvement 10/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 13, 2009 6:52pm]
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