Teacher ratings unreliable | Dec. 8, editorial
Measure students at start, finish
As a classroom teacher and someone who is subject to Florida's new teacher performance evaluation system, I believe I can speak for many teachers across the state. The worst mistakes weren't made recently with the release of erroneous results. Rather, mistakes began with the creation of a system that doesn't measure a student's growth or a teacher's effectiveness.
I don't believe teachers are afraid of being evaluated. And they are not afraid to be judged on the impact they have had on their students. They are afraid of a convoluted system that compares their students to a profile of composite students that data indicate are so-called "like" students. If we want to know how well Johnny is doing and whether a teacher is doing his or her job, test Johnny's knowledge of a subject at the beginning of the year and compare it to the results at the end of the year. That will tell us exactly what Johnny has learned and would say a great deal about a teacher's effectiveness.
The 2011 teacher evaluation bill (SB 736) has failed. The damage it has caused to our teachers and their morale is huge. Measuring the performance of our schools, teachers and students is too critical to waste another year. We need to take whatever time it requires to get it right.
State Rep. Carl Zimmermann, District 65, D-St. Petersburg
Failure to protect children | Dec. 9, editorial
We must take responsibility
The horrendous treatment suffered by this medically fragile child, Marie Freyre, is a disgrace. My heart goes out to her mother in her wrenching grief. It's unconscionable that our state of Florida allows such treatment. These kinds of laws and rules need to be changed now.
Our state government has failed to protect the most helpless, the most vulnerable. Please, we cannot let this happen again. It's time to write letters to our governor, our representatives and senators. We all must take responsibility for what happened and make our voices heard.
Lilyan Dayton, New Port Richey
I pledge allegiance to that gasbag Dec. 9, John Romano column
Root out the fraud
This column focuses on the wrong root causes of our national debt problem. Our bloated federal government has an overspending problem, not an undertaxing problem.
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security lose over $200 billion a year to waste and criminal fraud. The IRS readily admits that it fails to collect over $380 billion every year from tax evaders. President Barack Obama's deficit reduction commission identified $100 billion in annual savings from unnecessary Pentagon spending.
These improvements in government functions would dwarf any tax increases. No matter how much Obama increases the taxes on the rich, it will have a minimal impact on our annual budget deficit and our skyrocketing national debt. There are just not enough rich Americans in the country. All it will do is take tens of billions of disposable income out of a struggling economy and give to the Washington political class that will turn around and waste it on itself, their cronies, and silly government programs.
Walter Korschek, Palm Harbor
Don't encourage spending
I do not support Grover Norquist; however, John Romano seems to miss the point as to why Norquist is taking pledges from politicians stating they will not increase taxes. By doing this, Norquist is attempting to hold politicians' feet to the fire for the promises made on the campaign trail.
Increasing taxes only encourages further outrageous government spending like we have had the last four years. The current revenue from taxes is the highest in history, and government spending the last four years has been so outrageous that we now face a fiscal cliff and further downgrading by financial institutions.
Just remember the adage: "Give a politician a dollar, and he will find a way to spend it."
Robert K. Reader, Clearwater
America's best bet: Stay involved Dec. 7, commentary
Money brings big returns
The authors are precisely right about the leverage in dollars and human kindness that our foreign assistance gives the United States. Over the last two years, the international affairs account has already been cut by 15 percent. Sequestration or additional disproportionate cuts will not make anywhere near a significant dent in reducing our deficit. But they will create serious adversity, even death, for millions living in poverty and illness — as well as subtract from America's global leadership and moral standing.
Yes, we need to put our economic house in order, but not on the backs of those most deeply in need. In its fiscal negotiations, Congress needs to protect our proven, effective poverty programs and to oppose deep and disproportionate cuts to the international affairs account.
Linda Schatz, Tampa
Learning, not fads | Dec. 9, commentary
More than facts
A former school superintendent, I was long puzzled as to why students who received GED diplomas fared worse at college than students with comparable skill levels who received traditional diplomas. I can only conclude that in-class students acquire more than facts in school — they learn the social and academic rules of learning, interaction, inquiry and application of what they have learned.
All four of these vital components are also lacking in online learning — a fact which the moguls pushing the fad won't acknowledge. No physician educated solely online will operate on me; I want a doctor who has had his ideas challenged in person, had them confronted by other people's ideas, then tested — in person — by some means sounder than paper-and-pencil examinations.
There may be components of education that can be packaged and consumed online — namely, the small, rote-memory bits we all need to know — but to hold forth online learning as a panacea for today's education problems is folly.
Stephen E. Phillips, St. Petersburg