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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Tipping Point

Al Gore ought to be worrying about things like this instead of global warming caused by human-generated CO2. The real tipping point into disaster for a culture comes when it ceases to make demands upon itself, which necessarily entails making demands upon its members. That would include demands like passing a test to graduate from high school:
On Wednesday, 20 high school seniors and their parents sued the state Department of Education and school Superintendent Jack O'Connell, claiming the exam is illegal and discriminatory. They worry the test may prevent the students from graduating.
"Many students in California have not been given a fair opportunity to learn the material on the exam," Gonzalez said. "These are good kids who have worked hard for 13 years to pass their courses."
O'Connell has said that students who fail the exam can take another year of high school, get extra tutoring, enroll in summer school or attend community college until they pass. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger included $40 million for tutorial programs in his budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
So all that's really required of these kids is that they learn the material. If this lawsuit succeeds, they'll have no incentive to do that, will they? And as it turns out, not having these basic skills will really hurt them in later life - because reading, writing and arithematic are even more important skills in the 21st century than they were in the 20th century. "Just showing up" doesn't get you a job or that promotion.

Setting standards like this is not discriminatory. Passing kids through school who haven't learned what they need to learn is discriminatory.

I completely agree with you on the absurdity of the lawsuit. But, how does this have anything to do with Gore? Did he say something about it that I missed?
As a man who has taught in the LA Unified for a short time in my yoot allow this comment: the awful parents of the failing kids is the problem. Back then, and now, kids who get good grades in most minority black schools are beaten up for being "too white." Teachers who grade accurately are routinely assaulted by parents, so they give up and just pass the little pricks.
Howard, you're right. My mother was a public school teacher and she was charged with assault for grabbing a kid who was about to punch another one. It wouldn't have been the first time, either.

Some of these kids slap and hit their own parents. The atmosphere in many public schools prevents teachers from doing their jobs.

Dingo - Al Gore was giving a speech in the Phillipines in which he claimed that global warming was by far the most dangerous issue confronting the world today. He explicitly included terrorism in the "minor technical difficulty" list. The worst threat to the US (and also the most manageable) is our own incompetence.

An educated, functional and critically thinking population is necessary to combat everything from disease to climate issues. Kids that can't add and can't read will not fall into that class.
Standardized tests are meant to target bad schools and bad teachers, but they only ever seem to penalize the students in those places. Not all the failures are the result of bad students or bad parents--many, perhaps most--are the result of bad teachers. It's the teacher's job to make sure the students learn the material. If one method doesn't work, they're charged with finding another. Very few have the energy, interest--or the ability--to do their job. There's little or no accountability for teachers--especially in areas where they're unionized and get paid the same if they do a great job or a terrible one.

Forcing students (who may not be "lazy" but who may simply require a different teaching approach)to spend still more time with ineffectual teachers serves only to make them bitter--it doesn't make them any better educated. If their teachers couldn't teach it the first time, it's unlikely they'll do better the second--or third.

In more affluent districts, parents pay for tutors to make up for bad teaching--this is why the scores on tests are routinely better in these place. In areas where parents don't have these resources, there is no means of masking the abysmal level of teaching.

A student in a public school in most states today spends his entire school career prepping for one standardized test or another--state tests, SAT's, AP's. At every level this is the only goal--and it destroys true education. The priority for schools is to make a good showing so even the top students are subjected to test prep style education--which results in minimizing the more interesting and enlightened types of teaching that once existed.

As a by-product of this, teachers get worse and worse. The great old teachers retire--early in some cases, in despair over being ruled by tests. And those truly inspired to teach--to educate-- will be turned away by having to teach to tests rather than innovate and instill in their students a love of learning. Only the least intelligent, least independent and least likely to inspire anyone will go into teaching in public schools. The decline is already apparent: Statistics show that Education students at universities in the US have the lowest scores on SAT's and/or GRE's of any group.

The future of education is bleak; and the gap between public and private education will continue to grow as tests increase and the quality of teachers declines still further.

Very sad. I hope those parents win the suit so it will encourage such suits elsewhere.
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