Schools must boost results in AP classes | Oct. 22
Schools working to improve AP
This editorial refers to a Times "study" showing that too often, high school class grades in Advanced Placement courses may be followed by low scores on AP exams, a disconnect that "undermines the integrity of the entire system." One would assume that much research had been gathered on the correlation between AP class grades and AP exam scores. Yet as director of advanced studies and academic excellence for the Pinellas County School District, I have reviewed the College Board's and other AP-related research reports and have yet to discover any scholarly research to support the Times' assertion.
Further, I find it stunning that the Times had received course grades of only one Pinellas AP teacher at the time the "study" was conducted. The paper subsequently requested course grades for another 11 teachers whose students scored a 1 on the AP exam, but those results were not part of the reporter's research. Beyond the misrepresentation that a thorough analysis had been conducted, the Times reviewed and reported only Pinellas County schools' 2010 AP exam results. Where is the comparative data from other Tampa Bay area school districts as was reported last year?
Like many school districts nationwide, Pinellas has made a deliberate decision to open access to AP courses to all capable students who desire the challenge of rigorous college-level courses, particularly traditionally underrepresented minority and low-income students. Is the performance of Pinellas students on AP exams where we would like it to be? No, but of the 12 teachers referred to in the editorial who did not have a single student pass the exam, three no longer teach AP classes; seven are in their first or second year teaching AP. They are being provided access to ongoing training from the College Board, including the new College Board AP Summer Institute, a partnership between the district and USF St. Petersburg. Each AP teacher's performance is reviewed annually by high school principals, and additional training or alternative teaching assignments are part of the ongoing review of each school's AP program.
Bill Lawrence, director, advanced studies and academic excellence, Pinellas County schools, Largo
Health care reform
Law was a lifesaver
You would think that your child getting diagnosed with a disease that is a leading cause of disability in the country and learning to live with it would be the hard part. But it was not.
When our daughter was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, we went on with our lives, adjusting to numerous doctor appointments and drug treatment plans, paying our co-payments and moving on. Then in the fall of 2008 my husband was laid off from his job in the financial industry and we were given the COBRA information — $1,599 a month for coverage.
I told my husband to forget it, we would secure our own health insurance plan. That is when the most stressful time I have ever endured as a parent started. After contacting many health insurance carriers and being denied, I finally had an insurance agent spell it out for me: "Your daughter is uninsurable." I remember that day vividly; my heart rose up into my throat and I became dizzy from the reality in front of me.
The drugs that we had taken for granted, the ones that allowed our child to function, to get out of bed and live her life, were more than $3,000 a month. How could we pay that? We were forced to take the COBRA coverage — $1,599 for health and prescription coverage sure beat $3,000 for just her meds — but how long could we pay that?
We did get some relief from a government program that subsidized some of the premium, but that lasted for only nine months. As luck would have it, my husband got another job with insurance and we were able to continue her coverage under the new employer.
You would think that would be the happy ending. But although we had coverage, what if he lost this job, too? How long could we continue to pay for her medicine? By then our daughter was a junior in college, graduation was just a year away, and she would be kicked off our policy for good. She would be an "adult," but one with a pre-existing condition that would make it impossible for her to get health insurance. She would have to go to grad school to stay on our coverage.
The next year found the health care debate brewing, and late on March 22, 2010, I was glued to C-SPAN as the bill passed, changing our lives and the lives of millions of Americans just like our family.
Now people want to take that away from my daughter and millions just like her, which makes me wonder: What would motivate people to have that point of view? The optimist in me wants to believe that it is because they are unaware of the hardship that the former health care status quo placed on hard-working families that played by the rules and raised productive members of society. The pessimist in me thinks that they oppose it simply because of the administration that is responsible for it; that they would take this away from millions of Americans out of spite.
Tracey S. Corn, Valrico
Don't surrender your vote
Over the past few weeks, I've been calling people asking them to vote for a candidate running for office.
I am constantly amazed when I hear them say things like, "Oh, I never vote," or, "You can't trust any of these politicians." I say to those who use these excuses that our forefathers gave us this precious right to vote and we as citizens should definitely use it.
If you think those holding office at present can't be trusted or don't live up to the promises they made when running, then it is time you voted them out of office.
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said when he was asked at the end of the Constitutional Convention what type of government was approved: "We've given you a Republic, if you can keep it." It's up to us to do so.
Doris Houdesheldt, St. Petersburg
Jim Norman on ballot
My vote has been hijacked. When I voted early there was a large notice that a vote next to the Jim Norman's name would be a vote for Rob Wallace. I have never voted for Jim Norman, nor would I ever.
I called the Division of Elections in Tallahassee, the Republican Party offices and the local elections supervisor. I was told that since a judge overturned the removal of Norman's name on the ballot, my vote would be counted for him.
When I asked if I could revote on that race only, the person at the local election office chuckled and said I was not the only one to call. Because of these unusual actions, I believe all early votes in that race should be voided. I am a disenfranchised voter.
Katheryn Stock, Lutz
'Hiccup Girl' case
Lessons for children
Parents, please take a moment to talk with your children regarding the devastating case of Jennifer Ann Mee, the "Hiccup Girl" now charged with murder.
There are lessons to be learned. First, Facebook (social media) can be dangerous. Second, those whom you run with can be detrimental to your future. And, finally, choices that you make in the spur of the moment may have lifelong consequences.
Austin R. Curry, Tampa