High School Reform
Ohanian Comment: AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! First, as always, the media goes to Achieve, Inc. for advice, never labeling it as a organization of, by, and for corporate ideals. And then, the repetition of the mantra:
Far too few high school students take the algebra, geometry and English courses they need to get by in adulthood.
95% of successful adults never use their algebra, geometry, and most of their English skills. When was the last time you deconstructed a literary passage? Or identified the rising action in "Hamlet?"
And hey, we have a president who likes to declare premature victory.
I guess we can be glad that the Standardista editorialists admit to being disconcerted--and certainly glad that they chide Democrats for talking only about money.
IT WAS SOMEWHAT disconcerting to hear President Bush propose, as he did on Wednesday, to extend to high schools the No Child Left Behind Act's testing and accountability requirements for elementary and middle schools. True, there's plenty wrong with the nation's high schools. According to Achieve Inc., an organization that has looked closely at achievement standards in high schools, more than half of high school graduates need remedial help in college; most employers say high school graduates lack basic skills; and most high school exit exams don't measure those skills anyway. Far too few high school students take the algebra, geometry and English courses they need to get by in adulthood. More accountability and higher standards clearly are in order.
What was disconcerting was the impression a listener might have gotten that the nation can move on to high schools because the first stage of No Child Left Behind reforms is more or less complete. Mr. Bush was, as always, anxious to declare victory in a few selected instances: for example, quoting statistics showing school improvement in Virginia. But Virginia created an accountability system long before the federal one was even contemplated. And Virginia's test-score gains have very little to do with the federal reforms, which themselves have not yet proved universally successful.
The national problem is not merely about funding, the element that Democratic critics tend to emphasize. The still-unsolved question is whether failing schools, when given accurate assessments of their failure, will begin to improve. In many districts, the improvement mechanisms contained within No Child Left Behind are not yet working, or they are proving prohibitively expensive. How many children can be shuffled from failing schools to successful schools without making the latter less successful? How much help is it to hire tutors if no qualified ones are available? In his speech, the president said that "in the No Child Left Behind Act, if a school fails to make progress, parents have options." Where do parents in the District send their children if their school is failing? To another failing school? We welcome the president's ambitious plan to expand the current system to older students, but we would like to hear more about making the first installment work as intended.
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