Today's Letters: Testing obsession can sap students' love of learning

Published May 8, 2007

The big lie on education May 5, commentary 

I think this commentary is one of the most important ones printed in the St. Petersburg Times in a long time. I say this for two reasons.

First, it effectively destroys the myth that traditional American education methods are incapable of teaching our children sufficiently to keep up with the modern world. Second, it demonstrates the modern phenomenon whereby political ideologues create a myth and then by fervent repetition, make it indisputable truth in the eyes of many. I dare say, those ideologues will denounce this piece as being contrary to the "now accepted truth."

The shame of this myth is what it is doing to our children. As a grandfather, I have personally seen the effects of our current test-proficiency-based educational system. I have seen a child go, in two short years, from being one who loved school and learned eagerly to one who dreads school and finds learning a difficult chore. And she attends a school that does an excellent job of trying to preserve a love of learning despite the test-proficiency-based curriculum forced on the staff.

Despite the importance of this article, I do disagree with its conclusion for why this myth was created. Rather than a ploy to exchange unproven methods for traditional methods, I believe it is simply a ploy to distract the public from the true failings of our educational system. By creating this myth, the ideologues have distracted us from noticing overcrowding, lack of teachers, lack of materials, lack of preschool education and the myriad of other problems caused by lack of proper funding.

Ed Bradley, Lithia


FCAT overload

Once again the FCAT scores are trickling in and the high-paid bureaucrats are trying to spin the results to suit their needs, not the needs of Florida students and their parents. If the latter were so, teachers, students and parents would be able to see the test and answer sheets, the way anyone who pays for the SAT or ACT can, or like students in other states, such as New York, to make sure the test has been graded fairly and accurately.

But here in Florida, the taxpayers are just supposed to trust that the test is valid, that no mistakes have been made by the machines and the temporary hires that grade them, and that 38, 000 third-graders truly are in need of retention if the scores say so.

A recent article in the business journal Bloomberg reported on rampant errors in the $2.8-billion testing industry. The company that administers the FCAT has a history of errors, and the CEOs of many major testing companies agree that high stakes should not be placed on standardized test results. Yet we continue to place way too much stock, good or bad, in these scores. Jeb Bush is gone; it is time his Orwellian policies go too.

Sarah Robinson, Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform (FCAR), Safety Harbor


Poor partners 

Partners, not rivals May 5, editorial

It's too bad the third branch of government, the Florida Legislature, doesn't want to be a "partner" with the executive and judicial branches.

Once again, for at least a dozen years, the Legislature failed to pass an insurance parity bill that only required health insurance companies to provide coverage for mental illnesses equal to that provided for physical illness, as 40 other states require.

But the lawmakers did manage to help managed care companies by allowing them to increase their profits and administrative expenses at the obvious expense of patients.

It is doubtful that this "three-legged stool" we call government will ever be balanced. Seems like one leg is always shorter than the other two.

Donald Turnbaugh, Palm Harbor


Not feeling so safe

My Safe Florida Home was a good idea that's now run by an "it's not my fault" bureaucrat. I applied at the outset of the program and mailed copies of the required documents. Last week I received a "why should I care" e-mail telling me my paperwork had been lost and I'd have to start over again.

Relying on the old adage, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, " I think I'll pass. Judging from recent news reports, thousands were fooled by this scam.

Gerald Barnes, Zephyrhills


Hands off prayer 

Lord, help us, please no more hurricanes May 5, news brief

The citizens of Florida can surely choose when, how and to whom they wish to pray. Should they need help, there are religious leaders aplenty.

Not only do we not need the Florida Senate instructing us, it was also an unseemly action! The stricture against government meddling in religion - in both the U.S. and Florida Constitutions - would keep this issue out of the hands of government officials and within the purview of each citizen personally.

In addition, I note that prayer has not prevented disasters in the past, that God (or gods) has not shown mercy to the destruction of churches, houses of worship or good people.

With the problems we face in this state (property taxes, insurance, low-scoring schools, lack of help for needy children and families), the Senate should not waste time and our taxpayer money to pass this intrusive resolution.

Nan Owens, Seffner


Cuts to the disabled

Shortsighted policy

There seems to be a collision course we too often pursue where we take cognitive shortcuts to meet a short-term need. To reduce allocations to a group of people who deserve our support when most assuredly it will cost us more in the long run is truly disheartening.

There is a cost to bad policy and judgment and they produce consequences that form (in this case) on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. Can we not find a better way to render solutions to issues that arise? Have we become so awash in fast food thinking that it shrinks common sense?

Maybe each of us should suspend our rationalization of such acts and reach out to these families and organizations providing supportive services. Thank you to all who daily work to enrich the lives of these children and adults!

Michael Stone, Pinellas Park


V-E Day reflections

We are commemorating a very historical event in our nation's history: Victory in Europe, May 8, 1945, commonly referred to as V-E Day. World War II veterans, especially those who served in Europe, will have it etched in their minds - never to forget our service to our country.

I can state in all candor how sad World War II veterans feel in witnessing many of our young servicemen returning from Iraq with a plethora of injuries. These brave young men have been fighting a war against terrorists, roadside bombs and suicide bombers - a war that perhaps was completely unexpected but nevertheless became reality. It's a high price to pay!

American servicemen also paid a very high price to attain victory over Germany during World War II. Thousands of brave men and women lost their lives at such places as Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge, on sinking ships or bombers going down in flames or in some other nasty quagmire. Their loving families have never been the same.

Half of World War II was brought to a close as a result of V-E Day. However, fierce fighting still raged in the South Pacific, with victory over Japan not to come for a few more months. Thousands of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were wounded or killed. America honors them on this day.

For those of us who came back, our lives were interrupted, but we made it. It's quite fitting, therefore, that World War II veterans of Europe pause and reflect on the importance of commemorating V-E Day.

Jack Keller Sr., World War II 8th Air Force B-17 combat veteran, lifetime member, World War II Memorial Society, Belleair Bluffs