Jewish World Review June 23, 2003 / 23 Sivan, 5763

Joanne Jacobs

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Consumer Reports

Overdressed Students, Underdressed Teachers, Dressed-down Exams | Overdressed

Astounding: A middle school principal in Tennessee refused to let some students participate in graduation ceremonies because she felt they were "overdressed" for the occasion. She said one boy, an honor roll student who wore a suit with a matching shirt and tie, "looked like a pimp."

A mental examination is in order: She thinks these kids look too good to graduate?


At a school in England, students are snapping up copies of a nudie calendar featuring their teachers in the almost-altogether. So many teachers volunteered, they added an extra four months to the year. (In all my years of schooling, I don't think I had enough calendar-worthy teachers to make it past April.)

I guess it's one way to get kids to pay attention to the teacher, but they won't be paying attention to the lesson.

Dressed for Symbolic Sex

Today's ambitious, athletic, liberated teen-age girls like bunnies on their clothing and accessories. As in Playboy. According to the Washington Post , the Playboy bunny logo says "sexy" without showing as much skin as other teen fashions.

Stand Up for Failure

OK, kids. Maybe you made it out of kindergarten. But the odds are you'll fail soon enough. Not, perhaps, the point the vice principal meant to make. But it's no surprise parents at a New Jersey elementary school are upset. Newsday reports:

Some relatives were angry after a vice principal told children at a kindergarten graduation to stand during the ceremony to symbolize the number of students who wouldn't graduate high school because of alcohol, drugs or pregnancy.

Do school administrators have to pass a stupidity exam? Sometimes, I wonder.

No More Valedictorians

Valedictorians are on the way out, reports the Baltimore Sun.Competition distorts students' choices: If grades aren't weighted, would-be valedictorians avoid tough classes; if grades are weighted, hopefuls avoid unweighted electives such as journalism or jazz band.

I've come over to the idea of honoring the top 5 percent of the class or graduating students with magna, summa or cum laude honors.It reduces the risk of Hornstine-ish hysteria over who's number one by a meaningless fraction of a point.

Work, study, get a nose job

I've heard of a sound mind in a sound body, but this is bizarre.

Reality Bites in Massachusetts

Well, they did it. Massachusetts refused high school diplomas -- "dimplomas" in the Washington Post -- to 4,800 seniors who failed the state's exam. That's about 8 percent of students. Here's the inevitable anecdote:

Despite maintaining a "B" average, winning an award for "most improved" in his class, being captain of his football team and overcoming the challenges of a broken home and a reading disability, (Karl Kearns) didn't score high enough to get a diploma and graduate with his classmates.

I suspect Kearns didn't overcome his reading disability. By passing him along with Bs, his school fooled him into thinking that he was doing well when he wasn't. I guess they call that putting the “dim” in “dimploma.”

(Low) Standards of Learning

Virginia's Standards of Learning test is too easy, writes Patrick Welsh, a high school English teacher, in the Washington Post. Balancing stories of B students who can't pass a state graduation exam, Welsh writes about C students who ace their SOLs. Kids who can crank out a basic five-paragraph essay are told they exhibit "advanced proficiency."

When the school proudly announced last month that 87 percent of our current 11th graders had passed the writing portion of the SOLs, I winced, thinking that next year I will have even more seniors in my English classes who think the little effort they put into writing and the drivel that results is top-notch work.

Welsh wants to dump the test and put the money into teaching bottom-of-the-barrel students who can't pass even a dumbed-down exam. But who will push for that when there's no accountability? He makes a better case for raising the "proficiency" and "advanced proficiency" standards to keep the better students in touch with reality.

No Exam, No Summer School

California's superintendent canceled the July administration of the graduation exam, anticipating the state board of education will drop the requirement for the class of 2004. A two-year delay is expected. The San Jose Mercury News reports:

Opponents of the test have complained that it cheats some students out of a diploma because the schools did not adequately prepare them.

If there's no exam, students can be cheated out of an education and still get a diploma.

Dan Ordaz, assistant superintendent in the East Side Union High School District in San Jose, said the district had organized six-week summer programs at all its schools to prepare students for the exam but will now probably cancel them.

Without the graduation exam, the district won't try to teach math and reading skills to its failing students. No need.

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JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

06/16/03: Paper 'Is-ness,' Excluding Awards, New Racial Consciousness and Politics
06/09/03: Racist math, red tape for charters, potty reading
06/02/03: Teacher Pay, Illiteracy , No Republicans Allowed
05/27/03: Research papers, athletics, reading
05/19/03: Soft America, plagiarism, Minutemen and Jets
05/12/03: Demographics, nerves, valedictorian, vouchers
05/05/03: Gender Bias, Banned Words, Helen of Troy
04/28/03: Tests, home-schooling, self-esteem
04/25/03: Lessons, American Pride, Iraqi Schools
04/14/03: Iraqi Textbooks and the English language
03/31/03:Teachers, hugging, text messaging
04/07/03: War talk at school
03/24/03: Watching the war
03/10/03: Classroom chaos
03/03/03: Teaching tales
02/24/03: Segregation stories
02/18/03: Writing Essays, America, Beyond Bert and Ernie
02/13/03: Size matters
02/10/03: Parental homework, cheaters and memoirs
02/03/03: Diplomas, academics, preschools and Ritalin
01/27/03: Head Start, Social Studies, Marx, Africa and Math
01/22/03: Teachers as targets
01/13/03: Big Bully's Feelings
01/06/03: School of 60's Whining and Communal Destruction
12/23/02: Teaching in
12/16/02: Chocolate city?
12/10/02: Mandatory Victimhood --- and when cleaning up a school is 'racist'
11/25/02: Multi-colored math, sensitive science
11/20/02: How to leave no child behind
11/18/02: The tummy track
11/11/02: Dysfunctional documents?
11/04/02: Why go to college? Why test schools?
10/28/02: Pride goeth before an F
10/21/02: Diversity adversity
10/14/02: Bad hat day
10/07/02: Inflated sense of worth
09/30/02: The Royal road to knowledge
09/24/02: Sierra's Club
09/20/02: Stupidity Watch
09/03/02: First, win the war
08/26/02: Out of their field, out of their minds?
08/20/02: Fun with failure

© 2002, Joanne Jacobs