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Tuesday letters: The challenge of AP classes helps students succeed

AP helps students to succeed

It is refreshing that the St. Petersburg Times has focused attention on the achievement of academically higher performing students through its articles and editorials on Advanced Placement course participation and exam performance. However, the paper continues to miss the mark by focusing entirely on AP exam performance and the ability of students to earn college credit via AP exam scores.

The AP exam is a vital tool in helping calibrate and verify the integrity of the AP curriculum, but exposing more students to AP classes is about rigor — and rigor not synonymous with a certain AP exam score. While research clearly shows that students who earn a score of 3 or above on AP exams outshine their peers once they get to college, those who do not earn passing scores typically outperform students who have never challenged themselves with high school AP classes. This correlation is even stronger for minority students, which is why AP participation has become a critical strategy in the Pinellas County school district's efforts to close achievement gaps.

Data over the past several years indicate that while there were more than 2,200 additional AP exams taken in 2009 than in 2004, the pass rate has remained at the five-year average of 47 percent, meaning that in aggregate, there has been no decline in student performance or the integrity of the AP curriculum. Yet 981 more students, many of whom would never have had the chance to take AP classes otherwise, earned passing scores.

Is there room for improvement? Naturally, and principals receive AP performance data annually to guide teacher assignments and the individual professional development plans for each teacher. In 2009, the College Board awarded a new AP Summer Institute at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg through a partnership with the school district. Collaboratively, the AP subjects offered for training each year are based on the very data the Times has published.

The Pinellas County school district is passionately committed to providing access to AP curriculum delivered by trained and capable teachers for all motivated students. We firmly believe that this opportunity is the key to their success at the postsecondary level.

Bill Lawrence, director, Advanced Studies & Academic Excellence, Pinellas County schools, Largo

Sink doesn't deserve blame for SBA problems

In the past few days the Times has twice printed opinion pieces critical of Alex Sink's handling of State Board of Administration contracts, suggesting that she somehow acted improperly in having any contact with a lawyer who has now been indicted for corruption. The corrupt acts do not involve Chief Financial Officer Sink. Scott Rothstein never was given SBA work, and he has contributed far more to Republicans than to Democrats.

The SBA is a problem. The pension fund that thousands of state employees rely on has the worst stewardship of any state fund in the United States. The fund managers have made incredible choices, like huge investment losses in the already failing Enron, WorldCom, and others of the past decade. Coleman Stipanovich, former fund manager, was up to his eyebrows in questionable and disastrous work with Lehman Brothers.

Alex Sink is the only member of the SBA who has attempted to clean up this mess. She has said repeatedly that elected officials should not serve on this board, and that stakeholders should have some voice. Where was Attorney General Bill McCollum when possible fraud and misdeeds were occurring at SBA?

Your repeated criticisms of CFO Sink seem highly disproportionate and not good public service.

Susan Greenbaum, Temple Terrace

USF was right to fire Leavitt | Jan. 9, editorial

A flawed investigation

I sincerely believe that any position taken on University of South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt based on a report generated quickly by people with unstated investigative credentials is ill-founded.

The report seized by USF president Judy Genshaft and athletic director Doug Woolard as sufficiently compelling to terminate Leavitt's employment is the barest shell of a credible investigative document. Genshaft, Woolard and Leavitt were badly served by a flawed review process that was improperly and inadequately staffed and seemingly imbalanced.

The review testimony shows strong implication of leading questions to interviewees, the process provided no advocacy for the accused, and the tenuous conclusions rely heavily on hearsay.

In any investigation involving 29 "witnesses" attempting to describe an event occurring in a confusing situation within a high-pressure endeavor, there will be a high degree of variability in accounts.

An astounding number of the 29 "witnesses" saw nothing and heard nothing other than the comments of a few: an apparent attempt to amplify a minority and apparently coordinated and rehearsed account.

I'm pretty sure that Leavitt physically contacted Student Athlete "A" and I'm pretty sure such contact is not unusual in sports settings. I'm pretty sure that Leavitt, believing nothing untoward had occurred, was somewhat casual in his recounting of events. I'm certain that USF's investigation was flawed.

G.T. Kaszer, St. Petersburg

The firing of coach Leavitt

Football's toxic influence

Actually, I'm surprised it took this long. College football programs are like a slow acting toxin. Gradually one experiences the mental confusion and hallucinations followed by the loss of focus.

I knew it was going to happen back when I was in graduate school at the University of South Florida and talk of football first came to the college. All you had to do was look around at all the other universities across the nation that had successful football programs and realize it wouldn't be long before the big scandals would appear here.

I'm proud to see that USF did the right thing by firing "coach" Leavitt. A coach is supposed to set an example. What sort of example was Leavitt trying to set? And what would it have said about USF if they had left him in?

Rick France, Ph.D., Tampa

Peterman's expenses are unjustifiable Jan. 10, editorial

Setting a bad example

With our economy so bad, how can anyone justify what Frank Peterman, secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, is doing? Even if the economy was good, a state employee should be held accountable and repay expenses that weren't warranted.

Immediately after doing this, he should resign. He is a bad example of what a state employee making $120,000 is!

Donald Vicks, St. Petersburg

Icy plunge has real purpose | Jan. 4, story

Swimming for a cause

On Jan. 3, more than 100 individuals, including swimmers, kayakers and volunteers, supported a swim across Tampa Bay in what has been dubbed the First Annual Frogman Swim.

This was a joint effort of civilians and both active duty and former military personnel. These folks had one thing in common. They came to brave the 58 degree waters to help a stranger, a Navy SEAL who lost his legs in Afghanistan, fighting for people he had never met.

The idea, hatched by a 17-year-old Naval Academy hopeful, was to "pay it forward." Donations have been raised from across the country and one swimmer alone raised more than $8,000. It is one thing to put a bumper sticker on your car that says "I support our troops," but it is another to do something that actually demonstrates it.

Cmdr. Dan O'Shea U.S. Naval Reserve, Tampa

Tuesday letters: The challenge of AP classes helps students succeed 01/11/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 11, 2010 6:58pm]
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