Low FCAT scores stun, upset many | May 15
Essays are to be rough drafts
As a middle school language arts teacher of 17 years, I am a bit perplexed by all the news regarding the results of the 2012 FCAT writing scores. I have always been informed that the people paid to read our students' essays were told to score the essays as rough drafts. Rough drafts, written by an adult or student, will contain conventional (spelling, capitalization, punctuation and grammar) mistakes. No one can write to perfection in 45 minutes on an unfamiliar topic. Yet this is what we are asking of our fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders.
In December 2011, my eighth-graders took part in a field essay test for the state. Why was this field test necessary? Where are those results? Did anyone read those essays? Were there discrepancies in scoring then? If so, why weren't teachers informed? Did our county receive any money for students who participated in this field test?
If the state decides to have leniency for a student who scores a 3 and raises that child's score to a 4, what happens to students who scored a 4? A 5?
I have exceeded my time frame. I used a thesaurus, the computer's spell check and a reliable source to help edit this writing, yet I bet someone can still find a mistake or two.
Danielle Gembicki, Spring Hill
Bay area leads in home defaults | May 17
Banks engineered scheme
Apparently it's good news that homeowners are being foreclosed on faster now, so banks, Realtors, appraisers and politicians can put the awful mess behind them.
Everyone knows that the greedy banks discovered a way to make giant profits by providing lots of cash to increase demand, then crushing demand and getting their cash back from the taxpayers. They conspired with Realtors and lenders to push the dream hard and were funded by Fannie and Freddie, who would buy the worthless paper.
This was the crime that the Times' Mark Puente should be investigating and reporting.
Kurt Steinmann, Belleair
Water solution simple: Charge gluttons more May 17, commentary
Focus on commercial users
Increasing the cost of freshwater during droughts is one way to discourage use among residential consumers. However, nowhere in this otherwise fine essay do the authors address the real problem: Agriculture and industry consume more than 90 percent of all freshwater in the United States. So instead of putting more restrictions on the minority of users, water regulators should press the majority to develop efficiencies encouraged by higher prices. The commercial carwash down the street that uses 50,000 gallons of water a day should be the focus of reform, not the guy watering his plants.
Kurt Loft, Tampa
Not a civil rights issue | May 15, letter
Bad chemistry lesson
Christopher Martinez quotes the National Conference of Catholic Bishops: "Marriage is like the strength of the water molecule, with hydrogen and oxygen creating an unbreakable bond." This two-gas bond is very easily broken. It's called "electrolysis" and is routinely done in ninth-grade science labs. Moral: If you want to be a rocket scientist, don't rely on theologians for facts.
Jack R. Wilhite, Clearwater
Colo. gay rights tensions persist | May 16
Marriage's real purpose
Almost every day we see articles and hear politicians, ministers and others drone on about the sanctity of marriage, God's hatred of homosexuals, and the evils or dangers of marriage equality. Many tout the excellence of marriage between "one man and one woman" (at a time). If marriage between one man and one woman is such a God-blessed institution, why do half of them end in divorce or, for a fee paid to the church, an annulment, even when there are children born to the couple? It is time to face the reality: Marriage is a legal document to help define heirs to wealth and property.
Terry Hammonds, Dunedin
Republican priorities laid bare May 15, letter
No one's that hard-hearted
Your reader wrote, "If only our so-called representatives could be forced to stand in the living room of an 80-plus-year-old widow in a wheelchair and tell her that it is in the best interests of the country (and a Christian thing to do) that she starve in order to not disrupt the profit margin of defense contractors, maybe there would be a change of heart." Your reader has to be the only person in this world that really believes that our representatives really want this. Instead, what they want is to stop fraudulent "cradle to grave" free rides and changing of safety nets into hammocks.
Fred A. Murray, New Port Richey
Norman aide reaches plea deal in tax case May 16
Tax cheats, all
Benjamin Kelly gets slapped on the wrist for committing five years of U.S. income tax fraud while he worked for Jim Norman, while the Normans seemingly get a free pass for not paying income taxes on $500,000 received from the late Ralph Hughes. How is this any different than the rash of tax refund ID theft popping up across Tampa? They all belong in jail.
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
Black women and fat | May 14, column
Kudos to novelist Alice Randall for tackling a persistent health threat to black women, pervasive obesity. This is a delicate subject because of our individualism, cultural preferences and race, but it is a real health dilemma and creates huge and avoidable health costs. It calls for a long, patient and communal response and reminds us we reduced smoking and learned to use seat belts, which also improved our lives and health.
James Gillespie, St. Petersburg
Change for Catholic schools | May 14
Tuition is too high
If the Catholic schools want to find out why fewer people are enrolling, they may want to look at tuition rates. St. Petersburg Catholic High School has a tuition rate much higher than USF. With the economy in its current state, few people want to pay $10,000 per year for high school.
Robert Bost, St. Petersburg