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IT DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU MEAN BY HIGHER

12/1/98

 

   The PCT Web Site has carried a number of articles over the last year or so challenging the so-called new standards promulgated by Commissioner Mills and the Board of Regents for the students and teachers of our state.   A common theme in all of our pieces has been the idea that in the name of new standards, the quality of education in many of our schools, especially ones like Plainview-Old Bethpage, will decline in response to the arbitrary and often foolhardy requirements  coming out of Albany in the name of educational improvement.   Almost each day brings another example of how correct our position has been.

    Several weeks ago, I participated in a training session for the district's English teachers dedicated to instructing us on how to grade the new, six hour, Regents Examination scheduled for this June.  The session began with an introduction to the rubric to be used for grading the exam.  We call it a rubric, you see, because if we referred to the document as a guideline or a sample, layfolks might understand what we were talking about, and that would never do.   There followed distribution of sample essay answers written by students in districts that field tested the examination.  Each of us was asked to score these sample essays.  Once we had completed this task, we were shown how the "people in Albany," whoever they are, graded these same papers.

    Any literate person would have been shocked by what we learned from the experience.  Almost to a person, the POB teachers in the group considered the papers to be worth less credit than the ciphers from Albany.  Most were astonished by the high grades given to papers which, in many cases, were barely literate. As I commented to my colleagues when we finished the exercise, "It's very simple.  You grade each paper as you always would.   Then you add a grade to a grade and one half." 

    The message from Albany was not lost on the assembled group.  While Albany talks about higher standards, their rhetoric is as empty as that of the last reform effort in New York.  What does any one remember about the Compact for Learning?  In a few years, that is what we will recall about the new standards - another program doomed to success.

    This would all be laughable were it not for the probability of a serious long term erosion of what have been the relatively higher standards of districts like ours. 

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