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Today's Letters: The FCAT remains a very flawed test

Published June 10, 2007


FCAT tests us: So what?  June 3,  Perspective story

I was sorely disappointed by Ron Matus' piece about the controversy surrounding FCAT. I was expecting a serious examination of the issues that concern parents, teachers and others, yet his writing continued the flippant tone of the headline.

He gives lip service to concerns over the 2006 scoring error, then proceeds to brush aside pressing concerns about the potentially life-changing high stakes that ride on this single, obviously fallible test.

A glaring example is when he points out "it's not uncommon for two-thirds of all ninth- and tenth-graders to flunk the FCAT in reading. Remember: This is a basic skills test."

The FCAT is not a basic skills test, and the difficulty of the high school FCAT is way out of line compared to the Norm-Referenced Test, which compares students against their peers across the country.

The Times reported that last year, according to FCAT, 32 percent of Florida's 10th-graders were on grade level in reading, yet on the NRT, the median score was at the 67th percentile. That means the average score for Florida's high school students was higher than two-thirds of the high school students nationally!

That's a huge discrepancy, yet Matus' dismissive response is, "But it must be the FCAT that's wrong, right?" Right!

John L. Perry, Tampa


Stop watering down the education system

Having read both Ron Matus' article on the FCAT and the three-part series written by Bill Maxwell on teaching, I could no longer refrain from writing. Yes, Matus is correct. Some of the issues with FCAT are caused by teachers. But some are not. Maxwell, however, is predominantly correct. The problem, however, is not just with traditionally black universities; it is with most universities.

Having taught at the university level both full-time and part time since 1975, I have seen the decline in the quality of the students. I have also seen the push by the administration to keep the students happy instead of educating them.

We, as a country, seem to have said, "Everyone should get a college degree." I do not believe that. Some people do not enjoy and/or are not good at "book learning." If they do not like it and are not good at it, they should not be doing it - regardless of age, color or creed.

To criticize universities for graduating only 30 or 50 percent of their students is also potentially wrong. Many students who enter college do not want to stay. Some are not equipped to sit quietly and study. Does that make the university wrong for allowing them to quit? I don't think so. But by criticizing the university we encourage it to lower its standards so more students can graduate.

Some of the teachers Matus criticizes are only responding to administrative pressure. We need more emphasis on learning and educating and less on graduation rates and number of students who go to college. We need to stop watering down our education system. That is true from kindergarten through college.

Susan Long, Tampa


Schools share blame

Parents, not schools, failed these children June 3

I read Bill Maxwell's column with interest. I disagree with his premise that schools are not to blame. Maybe not as much, but they should shoulder some blame. There are too many teachers in all our school systems who just pass the students on to the next grade just to get rid of poor students. When these students get to college, they are not prepared to handle the rigors of college classes. I found this to be more prevalent in my latter years of college teaching.

One more statement concerning this problem about black universities: If a predominantly white university had the same fiscal problems as Florida A&M has had in the past several years, would it be treated with "kid gloves, " as FAMU has been treated by the state Legislature?

C.E. Vincent, Clearwater


A deserving achiever

A big man, a little ivy June 3, Perspective story

Kudos to Tony Jack. I was thrilled to see an institution like Amherst College open its doors and allow him a scholarship. When a young man from a lower- income family excels to the degree he has and overcomes many obstacles that face our young people of every race today, he deserves everything he received and more.

Colleges should open more doors to students who have not been born with a silver spoon in their mouths, New Yorker magazine on the living room table and SAT coaches at hand.

Tony Jack's family must be bursting with pride, but so will many others. God bless him. I am sure his future burns so bright it will blind us all.

Kathy Dreyer, Safety Harbor


Target identity theft

Costly mistakes June 3, story

Everyone should pay attention to this shocking story about Tallie Gainer III because any person can become a victim of identity theft. Due to the proliferation of credit cards and the Internet, identity theft crimes have skyrocketed in the last few years.

Although it's apparent the Pasco County Sheriff's Office carelessly dropped the ball several times in its investigation of Gainer, all law enforcement agencies should undergo a thorough overhaul of their identity theft program. There should be better communication among law enforcement agencies in relaying information of people who have reported their credit cards, driver's licenses or Social Security numbers missing or stolen. Detectives and prosecutors need to be better educated in recognizing suspects who may be victims of identity theft. Credit card companies and credit bureaus must get their act together, too.

My heart goes out to Gainer. I hope no one else has to experience the nightmare he had to endure to prove his innocence.

Henry J. Weese, Palm Harbor


Make it right

Costly mistakes June 3, story

This story was one that evoked great anger and shame, both directed at our State Attorney's Office and at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Such shoddy detective work and poor follow-up by these offices should be considered more criminal than what Tallie Gainer III was ever thought to be charged with.

Where is the attorney general in all of this? Where is the public apology that this man, his family and the community in which he lives deserves? Greater is the shame that our state and Pasco County are not doing everything in their power to scrub his record clean. Representatives from both Pasco County and the state should be at Gainer's door begging him to allow them to help fix things. I can't help but feel that if he lived in a different part of Tampa, or were of a different skin color, things would not have turned out the way they did and they would not have gone as far as they did.

Bruce Boore, Land O'Lakes


People of character

Costly mistakes June 3; and Guns pause for bereft mom June 4

Hats off to Tallie Gainer III and Denise Swisher for their acts of love and understanding in their personal triumph over anger and revenge. They are two truly amazing people!

I only hope that I would react in similar fashion in the most difficult situations they faced. I consider them heroes, and I thank them for their fine example of real love and character.

Anita M. Knapp, St. Petersburg


Garden memories

The fruits of his labor June 3, Sunday Journal

I just wanted to thank John Angelini for a trip down memory lane in this story.

Our fathers could have been brothers. It was great to reminisce about the days my dad planted his window box gardens when we lived in the city and had no planting ground. Then the day came when he moved to a place where he, too, had a beautiful flower and vegetable garden. Thank you, Mr. Angelini.

Toni Corda Chapman, Largo


Let Stanton be

I've been reading the St. Petersburg Times for several years now and have reasonably enjoyed it. But like all the news media, you get your teeth into something and can't seem to let it go.

Please, for the sake of the readers, drop the Susan Stanton issue. Many people have their views on this subject, which is everyone's right, but it's time to give this person, one of God's children, the right to have privacy in life and to be able to get on with it.

Please give Stanton her peace and her privacy, not only for her but also for her family. My heart goes out to them.

Marilyn Hedrick, Clearwater

[Last modified June 9, 2007, 20:16:07]

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