When parents act, students succeed and Where poor is new normal Oct. 20, commentaries
Good education isn't expensive
Lyndsey Layton's column perpetuates the myth that students from low-income families are expected to underperform in school. Bill Maxwell's column right next to hers helps shatter that defeatist thinking.
Families don't have to make a lot of money to supplement a child's education at home. All they need is time.
Even if you don't have a college degree or didn't finish high school, you can still read to your child every day and take him to libraries and museums. You can correct mispronounced words. You can demand that he read more instead of watching hours of television.
If he's at the homework stage, you can check it every night and make sure it's done. You can stay in touch with teachers and monitor his progress. If there are problems, you can find out what you need to do on your end to help fix it. If he needs special attention, make sure he gets it. Again, none of these things require money.
Blaming poverty and funding for the so-called achievement gap is convenient but ineffective. As the headline of Maxwell's column noted, when parents act, students succeed.
Joseph H. Brown, Tampa
Path to improved teaching is clear Oct. 21, commentary
Changes to teacher training
As a classroom teacher in Florida for 25 years, I read with interest the scathing critique of teacher preparation programs by David Colburn and Brian Dassler. On the surface, their argument that teacher education programs are not doing a good job might make sense to some, but it made no sense to me, as my own experience differed so much from what they were describing, and certain considerations seemed to be missing. When I researched their main source, the National Center for Teacher Quality, I realized that the Times was providing a platform for the so-called education "reform" agenda that is all too familiar here in Florida.
NCTQ is an anti-teacher union organization that promotes the use of standardized tests to both certify and evaluate teachers. It rates states based on a list of policies they agree with. Interestingly, Massachusetts ranks lower than Florida on teacher preparation, yet it has the highest student test scores in the nation, which according to NCTQ is a valid indicator of how schools are doing.
While relying on NCTQ is reason enough to question Colburn and Dassler, it was their praise of Florida's teacher preparation that really astounded me. This is amazing since over the course of the last 15 years, the state has lowered its standards for teacher certification, not raised them. The same time Jeb Bush started his "school accountability" agenda, the Florida Department of Education eliminated the "education" part of the college degree requirement, allowing anyone with a four-year degree to complete an "alternative" certification plan.
Education majors spend a minimum of a full semester, after two years of upper-level college coursework in their majors, as student-teachers learning under the expertise and guidance of experienced teachers. This was an invaluable experience for me and all other teachers I know who did the same. Following graduation, new teachers had to complete a three-year probation period requiring more frequent supervision and mentoring by veteran teachers. So, Florida teachers used to receive, on average, five years of preparation. While some still choose this route, fast-track certification is now an option in Florida.
So perhaps it's not colleges that are failing to prepare teachers, but the politicians and "reformers."
Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor
AARP-backed plans drop providers | Oct. 22
Don't impugn quality of care
Speaking on behalf of the physicians at Tampa Eye Clinic who have been terminated from participation in UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage plan, I find it disconcerting that the provider feels it necessary to tarnish our reputation for excellence by citing that those doctors retained in the network "demonstrate the highest quality at the greatest value." This suggests that those physician providers dropped were either of substandard quality, inefficient or both.
We at the Tampa Eye Clinic have been providing ophthalmologic care of the highest quality for over 50 years. Our services encompass a broad range of ophthalmic specialties. Tens of thousands of Tampa Bay-area residents (and beyond) have received care that is of the highest skill and ethical standards. Moreover, since we are staffed to deal with such a breadth of opthalmic diseases, our care is highly efficient and conveniently localized. Other physician providers, equally dedicated and diligent, can make claims such as these, too.
While UnitedHealthcare has a right to taper its network of providers for financial reasons as it sees fit, it is unfortunate that its public relations message must cast a shadow on those physicians who have served its patients so well.
William D. Reynolds, M.D., Tampa Eye Clinic, Tampa
How Florida kept blacks from voting and Misjudging voter ID laws | Oct. 20
Threats to democracy
It was bad enough when those in power succeeded in keeping an entire race of people away from the ballot box. Now, many Republicans are doing their best to disenfranchise the voting rights of an entire opposing party.
"Jim Crow" has morphed into voter dilution and voter suppression. What's next? The dissolution of our "democracy"?
Stephen Feldman, Valrico