Advanced Placement classes
Science classes get marginalized
In the recent push to expand the population of students who take advanced placement courses, the AP science courses have been marginalized. It's time school districts change how they schedule these courses and evaluate the teachers who teach them.
Over the past few years, these courses (AP chemistry, biology and physics) have been cut to a length which does not allow a reasonable amount of time to cover the curriculum and labs, and as a result the students are often rushed through a streamlined curriculum and denied adequate lab skill development.
Unlike most AP courses, these crucial foundational science courses are the equivalent of two semesters of college science with the associated laboratory course. At the majority of colleges and universities, these courses are eight credit-hours, consisting of six credit hours of lecture and two associated one-credit-hour lab courses. These courses require approximately 300-360 minutes of instructor contact time (lecture and lab) per week, and take place with generally superior facilities than a high school laboratory can provide.
At most high schools, less than 250 minutes of time is available for these courses each week. In reality, the total time is much less because of club days, early release days, and other frequent schedule adjustments. This rushed, high-pressure experience causes many students to think the subject is not for them when, in fact, if they could enjoy more lab experiences and a less rapid pace, they would find the subject much more enjoyable. It's turning off some kids from pursuing science as a career.
All eight-plus credit-hour courses should be given the time they need to adequately cover the curriculum and perform the necessary labs. In the absence of this, we will continue to see an unacceptable passing rate and a subsequent morale issue with the teachers and students.
Paul Goodland, Tarpon Springs
Don't lose big picture on the Rays Dec. 5, editorial
Public is getting taken
Why doesn't the Times "step up to the plate" and tell the public — who are struggling to put food on their tables, who can't send their children to good schools, who fear they may lose their homes and/or fear they may lose their jobs — the real big picture of professional sports?
• Tell the public that public monies should not be used to support baseball owners so they can pay their players millions and line their own pockets.
• Tell the public that the owners and players have enough money to build their own stadium. Other businesses pay their own way.
• Tell the public they are being ripped off.
• Tell the public to boycott pro baseball until it can be self-sustaining and not full of money-grabbing prima donnas.
• Tell the public to support Little League. They will enjoy the game as much for little or nothing, and they can buy a hot dog and soda at a reasonable price. All the kids ask is to have a little fun and maybe an occasional pat on the back.
Dorothy A. Norton, Palm Harbor
A middle ground
In view of the urgency of the tax rates issue and short time frame involved, the level of partisanship being displayed by both parties is difficult to understand.
I consider myself a small-government, low-tax conservative but wouldn't mind being subject to the taxes imposed on millionaires and billionaires. I'm really a flat, "Fair Tax" advocate, but now is not the time to champion that cause. We are in crisis.
The plan laid out by President Barack Obama is promising, but several relatively minor changes would probably make it more acceptable to both sides:
1. Make the Bush tax cuts "permanent" for all incomes under $1 million. (This should cover the vast majority of small business owners.)
2. Extend the Bush tax cuts for all incomes of $1 million or more for a period of 2 years but increase the top rate to 37.5 percent from the current 35 percent — as opposed to a rate of 39.6 percent now scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2011.
3. Retain all other recommendations included in the tentative agreement.
Frank Yanacek, Sun City Center
Balance the books by law
I remember Ronald Reagan's televised farewell address in 1989 as if it were yesterday. It was touching, encouraging and patriotic. There was one thing missing, though: a final plea for enacting a balanced budget amendment and line-item veto, or at least a warning of the consequences for failing to enact such a law.
Now we find ourselves saddled with a federal budget with a massive deficit. I've been involved with lots of budgets over the years, both commercial and nonprofit. The hard part is determining your planned or anticipated income and expenses and getting them to match. Sacrifices have to be made one way or another.
Deficit spending has been the order of the day for far too long, which has contributed to the economic meltdown of this country and causes us to become beholden to foreign powers such as China.
Our Congress and president have a responsibility to manage financial resources wisely, but they have violated this charge far too often. This is why it is necessary to have a balanced budget amendment and line-item veto.
Adhering to a budget requires discipline. If you haven't got it, you can't spend it. If an emergency arises, you find a way to pay for it. Hopefully, you've created a fund for just such a contingency. It's called "planning." It's that simple.
Tim Bryce, Palm Harbor
Tax cut costs too much
While I support the president and his efforts to create jobs and control the budget deficit, I believe he has erred by agreeing to allow the Bush-era tax cut for the wealthiest Americans to be extended.
The Bush tax cuts contributed to revenues dropping to the lowest level as a share of the economy since 1950, and have been a major contributor to the shift from surplus to deficit. Over the next 10 years, total tax cut costs will equal $3.9 trillion.
Letting this cut expire for the top 1 percent of taxpayers is not a tax increase; it is restoration of an existing tax. Adding trillions to the debt is not good for the economy. If keeping the Bush tax cut for the top 1 percent could do anything, it should have happened over the past two years. A January 2010 Washington Post article indicates that there was zero job growth in the United States between 2001 and 2009.
Alan Drimmer, Indian Rocks Beach