TALKING ABOUT STANDARDS
“Test Scores at Odds With Rising High School Grades” the Washington Post (
While the NAEP data will no doubt set off a new round of teeth gnashing
over the deplorable condition of our nation’s schools, the reality is that to
a considerable extent the public has gotten precisely the schools it has wanted,
at least that portion of the public residing in suburban
For years, my union colleagues and I have been trying to awaken our
school community to our version of the insidious grade inflation affecting our
nation’s schools and the resulting decline of academic standards.
That effort has been challenging to say the least.
At times, some, including, I realize some members of our union, felt we
were the enemies of the people. Life
for parents, teachers, superintendents of schools and board of education members
is just simpler when all is well in a school district.
Nobody really relishes having to face the fact that we have all been
responsible for the decline of standards – every teacher who has given an
undeserved grade, every administrator who has asked a teacher to
“reconsider” a mark, every parent who has called to hector an instructor
until he relents and raises a child’s grade, every member of a board of
education who has used her office to “deliver” higher grades to a
constituent, every union leader who makes one excuse or another for the poor
performance of too many of our students. They
have all done their part to cheapen the extraordinarily important work of our
They have all lowered the bar for the children we are supposed to prepare
for work and citizenship.
They have all lowered the bar for the children we are supposed to prepare for work and citizenship.
Yet, I’m very pleased to write about the hope that I still have that we
can reverse this decline. At the
instigation of the PCT and with the cooperation of our superintendent of schools,
our Board of Education authorized the formation of an Academic Standards
Committee to look into our view that standards have declined.
Composed of teachers, parents and administrators, the committee on which
I sit has grappled for almost two years with this question, coming to the
unanimous conclusion that our students, though as intellectually capable as
ever, are not challenged as they once were.
We have further agreed to undertake to build support among all school
community constituencies to elevate the level of our instruction and academic
expectations. Starting next week,
No doubt, this will not be an easy job.
The status quo will exert its
almost gravitational pull downward. In
the end, however, I have an abiding belief that most people prefer excellence to
mediocrity, and, while striving for excellence may bring with it considerable
discomfort, it is nothing like the discomfort of knowing that we are second rate
because of our own inaction.
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