Strategies for black students | Sept. 3
We know what works for reading
We know what works for teaching black students how to read. In 1968, Project Follow Through (the largest federally funded study to identify successful reading programs) found direct instruction to be the most effective method of teaching reading. It is an instructional strategy to teach reading that requires a schoolwide commitment to teacher training and ongoing monitoring. Although Pinellas County uses pieces of direct instruction in some schools, it does not use it in the comprehensive schoolwide manner needed for significant results.
Florida has a standard that at least 80 percent of children in a school should be reading on grade level. The group Faith and Action for Strength Together identified 14 elementary schools in Pinellas where less than 60 percent of children read on grade level. These are high-poverty schools with mostly minority students. We believe direct instruction could turn these schools around. We are very disappointed that our district officials have little interest in a successful strategy being used outside of Pinellas County.
The Times has reported on a new school district initiative to study which teachers in the district are being successful with black students. It baffles us as to why our district would limit their inquiry to only strategies being used within Pinellas. If School Board members are serious about improving black student achievement, they need to instruct the district staff to implement direct instruction in struggling schools with a high percentage of minority children not reading at grade level. We know what works.
The Rev. Manuel Sykes, president, St. Petersburg NAACP, the Rev. Robert Ward, co-chair, FAST education committee, St. Petersburg
Obama makes plea for jobs bill | Sept. 9
President Barack Obama's speech on jobs reminded me of the cartoon character Wimpy's famous quote, "I'll gladly pay you next Tuesday for a hamburger today."
Obama's call for government "partnership" with business shows how misguided he is. It is not government's role to be a partner to the private sector. Why would anyone want a partner that has no sense of fiscal responsibility and does absolutely nothing well or on a cost-efficient basis?
Mike Lyons, Apollo Beach
Does President Barack Obama really think that the uncertainty he's introduced so far — Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, regulations galore and "tax the rich" talk — will be minimized by a campaign kick-off speech featuring yet another bill we have to pass before we can find out what's in it?
Does he really think that targeted tax credits for small business and entrepreneurs will offset even more uncertainty inherent in increasing taxes generally on these very same folks, since many small businesses are taxed on the individual returns of small businessmen and women?
Democrats just don't get that the potential for obscene reward and the risk it entices is the fuel that powers the engine of our free enterprise system. Nor do they get that government as a "partner" is akin to affiliation with La Cosa Nostra.
Dwayne Keith, Valrico
Moderator too passive
I watched last week's Republican debate and I was disappointed not merely with the candidates but also with the performance of Brian Williams. He may be a good anchor, but he is a poor debate moderator.
When Newt Gingrich accused the press of looking for a fight between the candidates, Williams should have reminded him that that is the purpose of these debates, for the viewers to know the differences in philosophies of the various candidates.
For example, Rick Perry thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, Mitt Romney says he is not a tea party member, and so on. When Perry compared the theories on global warming to Galileo's assertion that the Earth moves around the sun, Williams should have told Perry that time proved Galileo to be correct and the church wrong.
These are the moments when candidates inadvertently get into a "gotcha" situation. Moderators should point that out to the viewers, and Williams failed here. The candidates think that they can say whatever they want and get away with it.
Raghu Sarma, Odessa
Enforce the laws
The whole world cannot come to the United States. We have an immigration law and many people obey it and still get here. The illegals make a choice to knowingly disobey that law.
The problem is: What does the person crossing illegally believe? He believes he will find a job and that there will one day be another amnesty that will cover him. The solution is to destroy that belief.
We can only do that by rigorous enforcement of our laws. The first step is to go after employers who know they are breaking the laws of our country. When the jobs disappear, there will no longer be an illegal immigration problem.
William Wallace, Tampa
There are 14 million unemployed Americans. I checked the Internet and learned that for the last decade, the United States has admitted yearly more than a million new immigrants and perhaps as many as half a million more who came or decided to stay here illegally.
Why would this country continue to admit immigrants in these numbers when it has so many of its citizens looking for work? Isn't it is time for the United States to impose an immigration moratorium of, say, 10 years — no exceptions, no special privileges — to clear the docket, so to speak, and improve the chances of U.S. citizens to get jobs instead of handing them to foreigners?
Humberto A. Calderon, Temple Terrace
Benefits will shrink
I can't believe that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry are bickering over Social Security. Don't they realize that President Barack Obama has already cut these benefits — at least for those who pay into the system. By reducing payroll deductions, he has already reduced future benefits. By extending the deductions under his jobs plan to businesses, he has ensured an even greater reduction of future benefits.
Don Holderness, Valrico