Common Core reversal | Sept. 24
Reform isn’t one-size-fits-all
Gov. Rick Scott recently issued an executive order that pulls Florida out of the PARCC system of assessments for the new Common Core State Standards. In response, House Speaker Will Weatherford released a statement saying, "I applaud Governor Scott for taking decisive and bold action to affirm Florida's constitutional role in education. For the past 15 years, Florida has been on a purposeful road to improve our schools through higher standards, greater accountability and higher pay for our best teachers. These efforts are paying off and our students are achieving better results."
What is clear is that the education system in Florida is clearly broken. After 15 years of high-stakes testing, school grading and now an evaluation system of teachers based on testing, the public is losing faith in how the state manages public education.
Scott's executive order puts a heavy burden of the blame on the federal government for efforts at controlling local schools. But that is exactly what the state has been doing for 15 years. The real experts on education reside in the classrooms and schools throughout the state. Local communities know better than the state what works and doesn't work in schools. They adapt to local needs and don't use the one-size-fits-all template that has been imposed by Tallahassee for too many years.
While the governor's approach might lead to some positive changes, we need a complete overhaul of the accountability system from top to bottom. Florida's teachers and school employees have been repeatedly ignored when political leaders and the Tallahassee education establishment have built this flawed system. It is long past time that teachers and other school employees be included as an integral part of forming a new education system that can be strongly supported by parents, students, teachers, administrators and the political leadership.
If the same education "reformers" who built this broken system are charged with making minor changes, the system will still be broken. Without any input and buy-in from the education experts in the classrooms and the local schools, public education in Florida will not make any real progress.
This is an opportunity for Florida to set public education on the right path. The governor's executive order said that the evaluation system should help teachers support student learning. That would be a great improvement over the current system that generates data that is used to shame and blame teachers and schools.
Kenny Blankenship, Land O' Lakes
Common Core reversal | Sept. 24
Pitch in to help schools
There seems to be a lot of concern, time and emotion being spent protesting new standards in education. I have been unable to find any specific, substantive objections that anyone has to these standards; it seems to be more of a general principles sort of thing. I would like to suggest a more impactful use of time and/or resources to help improve education in Florida.
My husband and I, recently retired, were recruited by a friend to volunteer at a middle school a few months ago. It didn't take long before we were hooked on "our" kids, many of whom are born with two strikes against them from the get-go. They struggle with basic literacy and math skills, for a number of reasons, from homelessness to poor environment to medical.
The needs of these students are endless. We are inspired by the dedication of staff members who, though underpaid, spend their own time and funds on other people's children, and by the dedicated volunteers we have met — but they are all spread thin.
So if you want to use your time or financial resources to make a positive impact on education, there are two ways:
If your schedule permits, volunteer. Even an hour a week, perhaps helping out in a classroom or mentoring a kid at lunchtime, can make a real difference. Most kids respond to a caring tutor, one-to-one.
Can't volunteer? Then donate supplies — packets of pencils, notebooks, or felt pens — or perhaps finance a field trip for a child or two, or a class.
What have we learned from our experience in our school? Standards, schmandards — your schools need help.
Joan Sowick, St. Petersburg
Greenhorn and spam in Senate | Sept. 26, editorial
Let the majority rule
The editorial, memorializing Ted Cruz's historic and heroic nonsensical speechifying, was right on.
I am not particularly thrilled with the Affordable Care Act either, but recognize that something was needed and that a single-payer system was "a reach too far."
This is America, where majority used to rule and anarchy was not allowed to interrupt progress with endless kvetching with no hint of an alternative plan. Dr. Seuss is an excellent choice to highlight the childish behavior of the Congress.
Bernard Waryas, Dunedin
Obama mocks 'crazy' Obamacare warnings Sept. 27
Whenever President Barack Obama wants to promote his unpopular agenda, he carefully picks his audience. While the vast majority of Americans are not infatuated with the Affordable Care Act, he takes his case to the nearest grade school, middle school, high school, community college or convenient liberal arts college to get the response his ego desires.
While these folks may be bright people, they are undoubtedly the least politically savvy segment of the population. They have yet to have to pay for all these "free" and wonderful programs. If he faced an audience of hard-working, taxpaying "adults," his reception would be quite different. Come talk to the folks who pay for your ultra-liberal giveaways.
Don Niemann, Seminole
Technology to the rescue | Sept. 25, letter
The texting cure
The letter writer has a great idea for a solution to texting while driving. The phone, noting the movement of the vehicle, would not function for the would-be texter.
Picture yourself, though, with a teenage son or daughter in the backseat unable to use their phones due to the movement of the vehicle. Never fear, tell them, there will be a tomorrow. But — OMG — without the use of their phones, they might even start talking to you!
Ramon Navarro, Riverview