Public school testing
Much is lost when testing becomes priority
I have taught for 19 years in public schools in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. I teach because I want to show children the joy of learning and, especially, reading and writing. Sadly, I am forced to watch my students suffer through more standardized testing than anyone over 40 ever suffered.
Imagine you are 13 and it is FCAT week.
• Even before the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test week, you completed three FAIR tests to check your reading ability, which took you out of the classroom, forcing you to lose instruction in language arts, the class that teaches reading comprehension and analysis.
• On Monday and Tuesday, you spent all morning — 80 silent, immobile minutes each day— in FCAT testing. If you finished early, you were not allowed to read anything to pass the quiet time waiting for the 80 minutes to be up. The media center was closed because it was being used for testing, so you couldn't have checked out a book anyway.
• Wednesday and Thursday, you spent 70 silent, immobile minutes testing each morning — again, no reading allowed if you finished the test early — then you had an hour and a half break for lunch. Then you went back into testing again for the rest of the school day.
• Next week, the sixth-graders will still be testing in the media center. Therefore, you still will not be able to get a book to read — though you desperately want to practice.
• In a few weeks, you will head back into testing for end of course exams. Since the tests are given in the media center, it will be closed for at least a week again.
• You had physical education time taken away from you in elementary school so you could get more practice in reading or math. Clearly, a person's physical health comes second to his or her ability to pass a standardized reading and math test.
• Instead of taking elective courses in middle school, you have been forced to take extra reading or math classes as your electives.
Makes you want to be a kid again, huh?
Our country needs people who can think creatively. However, we take away the opportunity for many of our children to practice being creative. We teach our students using differentiated instruction, yet we force them to take innumerable standardized tests, and if their scores show that they do not fit a predetermined mold, we take away their freedoms and their dignity.
Virginia Pake, Lutz
New job will tout county services | April 22
Cut through the gibberish
Explaining the decision to hire a "public outreach coordinator," a county staff member says, "We need to be able to develop strategies to make sure we're constantly improving in delivering services to the community however possible. … We're onboarding someone who will help work in conjunction with those needs."
Best case: The Times misquoted this staff member. ("Onboarding"?)
Worse case: The quote was accurate, thus proving the county administration's dire need for an expert to translate gibberish into standard English. That expert may edit staff's statement to, "We need to improve our communication. We are hiring a person to help us."
County administrator Mike Merrill says, "If we want our citizens to trust us and understand us better, we need to communicate better what we do." Yes, Mr. Merrill, you do.
Claudia Davidsen, Ruskin
Cuts fall on the neediest
While Gov. Rick Scott trumpets his so-called education budget, Floridians should take note of what the governor is not saying.
Scott conveniently fails to mention that just last year he prodded willing lawmakers into severely cutting the public school budget, telling local school districts that they must "do more with less." Meanwhile, Scott and his allies funneled scarce tax dollars to unaccountable private voucher schools.
As a certified nursing assistant at a long-term care facility, I am particularly upset by the steep cuts to health and human service programs imposed by this budget. These cuts will undoubtedly lead to more layoffs and lower quality of care for Florida's sick, especially children and seniors. Scott certainly didn't mention these cuts or his $38 million in health care vetoes during his bill-signing ceremony. Most appalling is that many of these cuts were made necessary only because Scott's anti-middle class budget gives away $130 million in tax breaks to special interests.
Darrell Condry, Tampa
More Secret Service firings predicted April 23
Age should be no barrier
I have a different perspective on the Secret Service issue. As a recent graduate of the University of South Florida at 40-something years of age, I took it upon myself to seek employment. Having served honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps in my younger days, I considered some of the federal government agencies that were hiring. However, I found myself to be instantly disqualified for some of them due to having passed my 37th birthday.
Please understand that they are not discriminating against people who are 37 with scurvy, or 37 and morbidly obese, or 37 with lactose intolerance. They just don't like it when somebody turns that arbitrarily selected age of 37. So the Secret Service is hiring. However, mature adults of sound mind and body need not apply. This is not the policy of the Secret Service, but rather the policy of Congress, which made the rule.
For some reason, they feel that something happens to a person on his/her 37th birthday making him/her unqualified for the task of entering certain government jobs. Yet on Jan. 3, 2007, the U.S. Senate saw fit to make Robert Byrd, at 89 years of age, president pro tempore of the United States Senate — third in line of succession to the presidency.
Richard Eldridge, St. Petersburg
Strip clubs upgrading to cash during RNC April 21
Dancing around the facts
I wonder if these entrepreneurs and their prospective "conservative" clients are among those seeking to blame the Secret Service prostitution scandal on a lack of presidential leadership?
Fred Kalhammer, Sun City Center
Bolin is found guilty again | April 20
End the process
Why is this convicted killer being allowed so many appeals? He has been on death row for two murders in 1986. Why is he still alive? The appeals process must come to an end.
Lois Hawkins, Dunedin