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Jewish World Review March 14, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Nisan, 5762

Marc Berley

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Consumer Reports

School of the Future? | THE same day the eighth-graders from two Manhattan middle schools began boycotting New York State exams, Public Agenda released Reality Check 2002, a study that invalidates the claims made by the irresponsible adults who induced the students to skip their tests.

At a news conference held in front of the School of the Future, Jane Hirschmann, chairwoman of the Parents' Coalition to End High Stakes Testing, declared: "These tests don't raise standards, they lower them."

The claim that standardized tests lower standards is based on the assumption that they force teachers to teach "down" to the tests, taking away time from teaching the students to be creative geniuses.

But the Public Agenda study of middle and high school students finds that 4 out of 5 say that their teachers do prepare for standardized tests but "do not take so much time that they neglect other important topics."

New York teachers should have no trouble building the test-worthy basics into their lesson plans, especially to prepare students for the state English exam, which the kids skipped.

Teachers need simply to teach their students English, no more, no less. You know, how to read, what a sentence is, etc.

The state exams are not hard. Good students should breeze through them with high grades. If they can't, there's a problem about which we should know - and standardized tests are the way to find out.

The Public Agenda study found that 7 in 10 students "do the bare minimum they need to get by." And 73 percent say they "get nervous but can handle the pressure of tests."

So they're doing the bare minimum, but they can handle the tests. Translation: the standards need to be even higher.

Standards aren't what they should be because administrators need to keep up the appearance of success.

Unfortunately, administrators also have to combat the irresponsible interjection of race. "We want what's good for white rich kids," said Hirschmann, suggesting that white kids don't have standards to oppress them.

Reality check: Standards are what enable people to achieve, regardless of the color of their skin.

Public Agenda, which also surveyed professors and employers, found that 3 out of 4 professors say students are weak in grammar and have poor skills for clear writing. Ditto employers.

American education is supposed to be the great beneficent equalizer, but things are going wrong. It's much easier to drag everyone down than to pull everyone up, so standards become the enemy.

Last year, even Scarsdale was trying to run from state standards. Now it's the School of the Future. Some future.

JWR contributor Marc Berley, president of the Foundation for Academic Standards & Tradition, is author of After the Heavenly Tune and co-editor of The Diversity Hoax. Comment by clicking here.


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01/16/02: FDNY 'diversity' divides
12/24/01: Sports fanatics
12/17/01: Scoring race: We need fairness and standards
12/04/01: George was the sound
11/27/01: The war against ignorance
11/08/01: Our courage is real
10/19/01: Teach American history again
10/08/01: Clinton still spinning a legacy
10/01/01: A new kind of peace movement
09/25/01: Why Can't Israel Be "With Us"?
09/20/01: Because We're America

© 2002, Marc Berley