Friday, September 3, 2004

Faking the grade...

Be sure to read this important article on grade inflation in The Washington Times (via Joanne Jacobs). Some excerpts:

Every year, hundreds of thousands of primary and secondary school students are tested and found to lack minimum skills despite having been promoted from grade to grade.

In California, the General Assembly delayed its 12th-grade exit exam requirement because an estimated one-third of 2004 graduates would not have received a diploma. The exam required only sixth- to eighth-grade skills.

Teachers may think they are being "nice" when they assign an undeserved passing mark, but in reality they are neglecting to weigh short-term disappointment against the risk of creating a life-long handicap. The high school graduate without basic skills, for example, faces almost certain failure in college and greatly dimmed prospects for workplace success. Worse, by the time of the inevitable rude awakening, the individual's formative years and best learning opportunities have been wasted.

This is educational malpractice, and no matter what excuses are given, this is at the very heart of it:

Failing grades put pressure on the adults who have responsibility for a child — especially on teachers and school administrators. For teachers, poor grades imply classroom ineffectiveness. For school administrators, they imply poor leadership, poor policy and poor oversight.

I would add parents to this list. Everyone is a lot more comfortable if the problem of failing students doesn’t have to be addressed. This is why the No Child Left Behind act was so necessary. It’s not perfect, but it gets one big thing right: accountability. And that is why NCLB is so vehemently opposed by teacher’s unions. Accountability pulls the rug out from under comfort, and puts the focus on student achievement where it belongs.

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