Commentary on the present and future of culture, politics, economics, and social values................... "At any given instant/All solids dissolve, no wheels revolve,/And facts have no endurance." W.H. Auden.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Welcome to the Society Where ALL Students Are Above Average

This week, students across New York state took the Regents examination in mathematics, the passing of which is a requirement for high school graduation. "Too hard," cried superintendants. "Too hard," cried principals. "Too hard," cried teachers. Students just cried.

What is the problem? It turns out that a large number of students will not be graduating from high school this year because they did not pass the examination. Do the professional educators ask, as result, that schools be improved, that teachers be evaluated for competence, that the quality of teaching be upgraded? Oh, no! They want the standards of the examination to be lowered so that most (all?) students pass. And they want future exams to be made easier. After all, if students fail an exam, that damages their self-esteem! Egos are more important that brains!

In response to widespread public complaints about the failing performances of schools in the state, the New York Department of Education in 1996 set a requirement that students must pass a set of Regents examinations in English, mathematics, history, and science in order to qualify for graduation from high school. The results are alarming. In 2001-02, for example, only 68% of students statewide passed the mathematics examination. In New York City, only 50.8% passed. But surely,the problem is with the examination and not with the students and the way they have been taught! So, say the educators, let us lower the standards so that all students pass.

Do you remember author Garrison Kiellor's fictional town of Lake Wobegone? There all the students were above average. A forecast of the future, as it turns out. In New York, if the educators have their way, all the students in the state will be above average. It is just a matter of changing the standards of the Regents examinations! A simple solution to a complex problem! A sliding standard to assure that no one fails! In the Land of Oz, a certificate was all that was needed to establish that a person was a genius. Now our schools will be issuing such certificates to all who enter their halls!

Who says the US is in decline?

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