Graduation rates rise, knowledge skills decline – what’s wrong with this picture?


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A sign in a classroom here at Berea High School, northwest of downtown in the largest urban district in the state, sends this powerful message: “Failure Is Not an Option. You Will Pass. You Will Learn. You Will Succeed.”

By one measure, Berea, with more than 1,000 pupils, is helping more students succeed than ever: The graduation rate, below 65 percent just four years ago, has jumped to more than 80 percent.

But that does not necessarily mean that all of Berea’s graduates, many of whom come from poor families, are ready for college — or even for the working world. According to college entrance exams administered to every 11th grader in the state last spring, only one in 10 Berea students were ready for college-level work in reading, and about one in 14 were ready for entry-level college math. And on a separate test of skills needed to succeed in most jobs, little more than half of the students demonstrated that they could handle the math they would need.

It is a pattern repeated in other school districts across the state and country — urban, suburban and rural — where the number of students earning high school diplomas has risen to historic peaks, yet measures of academic readiness for college or jobs are much lower. This has led educators to question the real value of a high school diploma and whether graduation requirements are too easy…

The most recent evaluation of 12th graders on a national test of reading and math found that fewer than 40 percent were ready for college level work. College remediation and dropout rates remain stubbornly high, particularly at two-year institutions, where fewer than a third who enroll complete a degree even within three years…

RTFA for all the usual excuses, all the rationales consistent with a society run by beancounters. The value of what you get in return is rarely considered. Not only by the politicians. Parents and teachers get – and deserve – their share of stick.

“Social pass” is a beloved pair of words here in New Mexico. Purportedly liberal politicians say students should be moved along even if they can’t pass tests demonstrating basic skills. You shouldn’t harm their tender little souls – with standards. Nothing new about that. I first ran into students graduating from good schools in wealthy communities who were functional illiterates – over 50 years ago. Now, it’s everywhere.

Beancounters are even more in control. That includes some local teachers unions run strictly for job protection instead of contributing to standards that aid children in learning how to learn. Get past all of that and you have to deal with the current crop of fools calling themselves conservatives who believe education was best before we had public schools.

2 thoughts on “Graduation rates rise, knowledge skills decline – what’s wrong with this picture?

  1. moss says:

    Finnish model works, Singapore model works – though not this side of Catholic school. The former could easily be established state-by-state with federal standards. Mail me a penny postcard when politicians, parents, pundits and teachers decide to do it. Next century maybe.

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