1. Archive

No agreement on the merits of grade retention

Re: I failed. Thank you for the informative and timely article on May 26 on grade retention. As this school year is drawing to a close, many parents may be wondering whether retention should be considered for their children next fall. Janice Martin is correct in her reporting of the research on retained children. The practice of repeating a grade is not only ineffective in helping children succeed in school, it is actually detrimental in most cases. School districts are now becoming more aware of the financial and human costs involved in this "time-honored practice" which usually causes more harm than good.

Both the Florida and the National Association of School Psychologists are committed to promoting interventions other than retention for students in academic difficulty. A thorough assessment of the reasons for school failure, the effectiveness of instruction, and the extent of alternative and remedial strategies available should be explored in each case prior to making a decision on retention. The teachers, administrators and school psychologists at each school are eager to work with parents in enhancing the educational attainment of all students.

Kathleen A. Leighton, President, Florida

Association of School Psychologists, Palm Harbor

After reading the lead story in the Perspective section, May 26, I felt that a comment on "retention in grade" was necessary. In this day and age, where children never hear the word "no" until they first attend school, and with the trend in education to adjust our standards of awarding diplomas to our students on a "competency-based" basis, a program which holds the educators responsible for students learning a pre-established minimum _ the elimination of the only tool that an educator has to insure this minimum _ is ludicrous.

I feel that one of the reasons for our lagging in the world of education is this: We have already abdicated our commitment to excellence in favor of "social promotions." All clear-thinking individuals must be appalled at the mere suggestion that students be passed on to the next order of education without satisfactorily completing each phase in turn. Think about it: Where would our health care be if the doctors we depend on to treat our illnesses were passed on just because their classmates were passed on and we didn't want to traumatize them by retaining them to make them learn the required information and skills needed to perform the surgical tasks needed to repair a faulty heart valve or set that broken leg?

If your editorial staff is not aware of the legal battles that loom when a child is graduated without competency in the basic skills, it would be advantageous if they were to research some of the class action suits that have been brought because "Johnny can't read." Many of our youth have difficulty working out the amount they should receive in their pay checks. Some of those we work with can't tell how many pints there are in a gallon and how many ounces there are in a pound.

We already have a "social promotion" system and if we eliminate the retention in class, we can expect our society to decompose to the level of some of the Third World nations we are trying so desperately to advance.

There has to be a better way. Educators have been studying special education and its application to these students who don't learn in the mainstream. It's called "resource," and it works. The program works well if properly applied. I know; I had a successful track record as a practitioner of the teaching profession before retiring two years ago, and I used the IEPs (individual education plans) for those slow learners in my classes. It's a bit more work for the teacher, but the rewards are worth it. The students were never hurt by retention in class because they are retained not as an act of discipline but as an act of caring and helping. They know this because someone has taken the time to meet with their parents, teachers, special needs coordinator _ as well as the students _ and has established a program with definite goals and objectives. These students react to this special treatment and strive to attain the goals set for them. The programs make winners of students who have never experienced anything but being losers. Remember, winners don't quit.

It's too bad that our educators don't look at the complete picture and realize that special education is not only for those with physical handicaps but for those who have learning disabilities as well.

Remember, not everyone can read and understand the Bible or Shakespeare without help, but that doesn't mean they can't be taught if the teacher and the educational system will take the time to work with them.

James A. Milano, Pinellas Park

Parents' responsibility

After reading hundreds of articles on the failure of our educational system, I feel compelled to write about the responsibility of parents in this matter.

On April 28, David Broder wrote 800 words without mentioning "parents," and on May 28 Tom Hansen wrote 600 words on the subject mentioning parents only in regard to the lack of discipline in their children, and blaming the permissiveness of the 1960s for the problem.

Reagan and Bush visited schools to inspire the students, Bush pledged in 1989 that all 4 year olds will have the benefit of the "Head Start" program, and Ted Kennedy advocates entitlement programs for preschoolers on nutrition, health and education. Doesn't this kind of political foolishness indicate that we must do a better job? The parents' participation in early education helps the bonding process and establishes parental authority which is so important.

The system is failing miserably, but parents can fill the gap and eliminate illiteracy. Let's make it a rule that children must be able to read and write when entering school.

Alton R. Masear, St. Petersburg

Column "biased'

Re: Things are going awry at Auburn, by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, May 25.

It is unfortunate that the excellent quality of the St. Petersburg Times has been marred by such an obviously biased article.

Barbara L. Major, Seminole

Second thoughts

Re: Words never said about China, editorial, May 28.

Why is President Bush so intent on the Most Favored Nation trade privileges with China?

Is this the apex of the triangle for unknown activity that goes along with the Iran-Contra affair and the hostage deal? It makes one have second thoughts.

Betty J. Schmidt, Largo

Troxler welcomed

A sincere welcome to Howard Troxler to the St. Petersburg Times. Anyone who knows there is such a place as Pasco County can't be all bad; we have been here 20 years. All we need is a good transportation system and it would be perfect.

G. Sorensen, Holiday

Bodies are beautiful

Re: Letter to the editor, X-rated beaches.

I am thankful that I am not a permanent resident of this area; it seems to be infested with narrow-minded prudes who never stop trying to make everyone else just like them.

Just because this letter writer disapproves of certain swim suits legally worn on the beach, she wants a law passed to disallow them; everyone else must bow to her will.

Insofar as her children being harmed by what they see on the beach, she, herself is doing them no good by brainwashing them to think that the human body is something not fit to be seen; the human body is beautiful.

My children were always taken with us to clothing-optional beaches and nudist camps. They grew up without the prurient curiosity that is evident in so many children. They are both married now, and are bringing up their offspring the same way. They know what is proper attire _ black tie or evening gown for formal occasions _ nothing but sun screen for swimming on a free beach.

I do not try to impose my views on the general public, but if I did, I would make teaching children that the sight of a human body is obscene an actionable form of child abuse.

Marcia Stuart Wade, St. Petersburg

Re: X-rated beaches, letter to the editor, May 28.

"God created man in his own image _ in his own image created him he."

It's a good thing that God didn't wear a Brooks Brothers' suit when he did it, or I never would have seen the beautiful little children happily playing, naked in the sunshine, around the fountain in Washington Square Park (New York).

Nude is not lewd.

Virginia Beames, St. Petersburg

A "bright spot'

The edges of the newspaper containing the Bay Plaza articles in the City Times and Section B should have been "edged in black"! The only bright spot in the whole edition was the headline: Elsey resigns. (It should have been edged in red!)


S. Heflick, St. Petersburg

Peace and quiet

Re: Post cards from the Panhandle, May 26.

What were you thinking about sending Robert N. Jenkins up to northwest Florida? You have chased us out of South Florida where we were born and raised, now you are telling the whole world about our quiet little corner of Florida. You should be ashamed! Where do you think we Floridians of five generations should go to have a little peace and quiet?

Eva M. Sherwood, Charles Sherwood

and Nellie Daye, Tallahassee

Facing history

Re: Fearing to face history, May 26.

I am a senior majoring in history at Eckerd College and my ultimate goal is to teach at the college level one day. This is due in part to the very same issues discussed in Fearing to face history. I have always felt that if I were to teach at the junior high or high school level, I would not be allowed to teach the students the truth about American history, which is sometimes, as the editorial stated, "awfully ugly." In order to soften the blow I would have to practically lie to my students. As a result, the same misconceptions and myths that exist today concerning America's past would be passed on to new generations. This is extremely unfortunate for all Americans; past, present and future. This country is still very young and if we want it to last we must teach its citizens the truth. A false foundation will only make it weak, but the truth can make it strong.

Melissa L. Keller, St. Petersburg

Pit bulls

Some people seem to feel the same about their American pit bullterrier as they do the people they send to Congress. Theirs is okay, but the one in the next block/state is no good and ought to be shot/impeached for their dangerous behavior.

I believe it is against natural law to breed an animal whose sole purpose in life is to kill. Pit bulls are all hand grenades in the possession of those unlicensed to dispose of explosives. Pit bull owners should have an opportunity to view videotapes of pit bulls fighting, doing what they were all bred to do. I'm sure that some macho breeder has made tapes of such events. These same owners should be given the opportunity to view still photos of the children and elderly people mauled to death or maimed and terrorized.

Norman A. Peterson, Clearwater

A clarification

Re: Maybe it's time to let bad schools fail, April 26, by William Safire, contains an incorrect reference to an electronic encyclopedia.

The column stated that the new Encyclopaedia Britannica is on compact disc. However, as always, the new Encyclopaedia Britannica is available only in its traditional, hardbound print format.

Safire apparently meant to refer to Compton's MultiMedia Encyclopedia, the electronic work from Britannica Software, Inc., that was introduced on CD-ROM (compact disc-read only memory). Compton's MultiMedia contains text, audio, animation and outstanding graphics on a single disc that is five inches in diameter. This work is the electronic version of Compton's Encyclopedia, the highly praised reference that also is published by Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.

Roald H. Haase, Manager, News Services,

Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., Chicago, Il.

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