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Education secretary fails to grasp FCAT pressures

Editor: I would like to invite Education Secretary Jim Horne to visit my classroom. If he seriously wants to hear from teachers, then take the time to come and sit with us and listen. I do not know where he is receiving positive messages from teachers about the FCAT, but surely it is not from Title 1 schools.

Specifically, I take issue with his assertion that: "Teachers give tests frequently. The FCAT is no different."

Best teaching practices do not designate one test that qualifies students for retention or promotion.

I have had to sit through 300 hours of English as a second language classes that require me to make strategies for students in my classroom who are from other countries. Are there modifications on the FCAT for these students? No. Welcome to America. My student from Bosnia who has been in America for two years must pass the test or be retained. Sure, you'll allow him to use a Bosnian dictionary, but unfortunately, he never learned to read in Bosnian because he had never been to a school before reaching America.

I must make modifications for my severely learning disabled students. Are modifications for these students included on the FCAT test? No. Don't pass the test _ back to third grade. My five SLD students must pass the FCAT test or be retained.

How can Horne, with a straight face, claim that: "For the vast majority of students, the FCAT is less high stakes than a semester test?"

He must be kidding. Two of my students have had deaths in their immediate families. One of my students last week lost his older brother who had been in a coma for two months. Do you think his test score will be negatively affected? My other student was absent on day two of the test to attend the funeral. When she returns to take the makeup test or through the five hours of tests, do you wonder if she'll be thinking, "Fourth grade depends on this test?"

Ultimately, the most insulting statement from Horne's most recent e-mail to Florida teachers was: "Most teachers and responsible parents strive to shield their students from undue anxiety and encourage them to be confident in demonstrating what they have learned."

Teachers are not the cause of this undue anxiety. When you tell a third-grade student that his passage into the next grade is based entirely on this test, then that in itself is the cause of the anxiety.

What legislators fail to see is that teachers care about the success of our students. I want every one of my students to become successful. I give 100 percent of myself to my students every single day. Many of the obstacles these students face are completely beyond my control.

Kathi Jackson, third-grade teacher

James M. Marlowe Elementary School

New Port Richey

Accounting for penny tax?

Don't count on it if passed

Editor: C.T. Bowen calls the Pasco Republicans premature in coming out against a Penny for Pasco. He says they're against property tax relief. But if you believe that a sales tax increase will be matched by a decrease in property tax, well, I have a bridge to sell you.

I won't express a view on whether Bowen was just being ingenuous, or lying. I'll leave that to you.

But I am of the view that governments, at all levels and maybe without exception, have a lot of waste, fraud and abuse in their budgets, and that a tax increase is almost never called for. Especially not in Pasco, with all the growth within the county.

Could the School Board use another $14-million? Of course. But there is no way they can't find it in their $583-million budget. Same with the county.

At least with property taxes, the commissioners are accountable every year. With a Penny for Pasco, they won't be. It's that simple.

Ernest E. Lane, New Port Richey

People fighting stores

live where land cleared

Re: Neighbors fighting Wal-Mart, March 8

Editor: I know that I am probably not the only resident who is tired of hearing about various Pasco neighborhood groups protesting Wal-Mart Supercenters being erected in Holiday and Hudson. It is interesting that the only time people become green or publicly concerned about traffic problems on U.S. 19 is if a Wal-Mart is being built near them. Where have these people been? Practically all the land in West Pasco has been torn up by residential and business development in the past 10 to 15 years. Where were they when the very land that they reside on was being destroyed to build their homes? What hypocrisy!

Wal-Mart is coming to Holiday and Hudson, and I hope that these neighborhood groups can find some more important cause to take up their time.

Michael Cote, Holiday

Reporter covered schools

fairly and responsibly

Editor: As I read Kent Fischer's farewell article, the same tears that I have shed several times in the last few weeks dropped onto my morning paper. The realization that the moment is here; that our community is losing a stellar reporter is sad for me to contemplate.

Specifically, I want to tell you how much I personally appreciated the professional side of this ace reporter. My two children have walked the halls of Ridgewood for their high school years, and they were there at a time when we experienced a crisis that shook our campus and left us temporarily vulnerable to pain and despair. Many reporters, both in print and television media covered this event, but not always in the same responsible and fair approach that Mr. Fischer embraced. I still feel today that the Times rose above all with the man that represented them. He could have been as sensationalistic and irresponsible as others in his industry, yet he chose to report the truth, not words written for the sole purpose of higher circulation or personal gain. My respect for him is immeasurable.

Roxanna Torre, New Port Richey

Directional turn arrows

give drivers less notice

Editor: I have noticed lately that the white painted turning arrows have shrunk considerably in size. One has to be almost on top of the arrow to spot it.

The only advantage I can see in shrinking the arrows is that it requires less paint.

Many people, like myself, no longer are blessed with perfect vision.

Margaret Holway, Port Richey

Council members need

to research bingo's impact

Re: Port Richey bingo

Editor: What do the council members do before, during and after a council meeting, since they say they didn't know the consequences when approving the bingo ordinance?

I was not at the meeting to hear Eugene Scott ask "why only after the ordinance passed, it then sounded so bad to them." Did they even know what they were voting on?

Have the council members who oppose the bingo halls ever been to a game to even know what bingo is all about?

Mayor Eloise Taylor, this ordinance will not benefit just one person, it will benefit many, many charities. Council member Phyllis Grae, don't put the city in jeopardy. Yes,I agree this is a serious matter. Many that go to bingo are older people from other states who have nothing to do while here and enjoy bingo for the social part of being with other people, like back home. The games in Florida have a state limited amount for payout, not like other states. We ran our own game in Indiana, renting from the Fraternal Order of Police and donating to a charity. Large bingo halls can produce more money for charities than small halls.

The amounts given may not be thousands of dollars, but like the old saying, a little is better than none. There are certain people in Pasco County that are against anything they can come up with. Before long they will be saying that we must have an ordinance passed to let us live, eat and die in Pasco County.

Carrie E. Tobin, Bayonet Point

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