"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, January 30, 2006

Scraping for the Stars

Today Bob Herbert's comments focused on one of our greatest sources of unacknowledged failure in America: "nationally, just two-thirds of all students — and only half of all blacks and Latinos — who enter ninth grade actually graduate with regular diplomas four years later."

Sadly, Herbert does nothing to connect the dots between dropout rates, the relentless spread of high school exit exams, and the increasing number of poor American children. Here are some figures that might shed a little light on where we are and which direction we could be headed:
Of the 10 states with the highest percentage of African-Americans, 9 have high school exit exams.
Of the state with the highest percentage of Hispanics or Latinos, 8 have high school exit exams.
Of the 10 states with the highest percentage of whites, 1 has exit exams.
Of the 10 states with the lowest graduation rates, all 10 have high school exit exams.
By 2009, five new states will be added to the 20 states now requiring high school exit exams.
President Bush is pushing for annual testing in grades 9, 10, and 11.
Now factor in the millions of minority children who are failing once, twice, three times in elementary grades as a result of the racist testing policies of NCLB, and you have enough built-in failure to assure, perhaps, that, by 2050 when the majority of the American public is brown or black, as noted by Herbert today, the majority of these folks will constitute a permanent underclass that will require the direction of a well-educated white elite whose concerns for social justice have been educated right out of them by a relentless reduction of democratic aspirations to a tunnel vision of economic might. Here, for instance, are the LEAP passing percentages for just one urban school's 4th graders in Louisiana since 2000. We must wonder how many of these children will ever earn a diploma:

30% pass in 2000
48% pass in 2001
46% pass in 2002
55% pass in 2003
58% pass in 2004

The Florida solution, just announced today, to this corrosive failure problem in high school? Eliminate the freshman, sophomore, etc. designations, eliminate the arts requirement, cut the number of electives, add a math requirement, and allow students to stay in high school as long as it takes to pass the exit exam:
Students who haven't met diploma requirements by their fourth year will be able to remain in 12th grade until proficiency requirements for a diploma are met.

That's the best thing about the proposals, [Polk County Superintendent] McKinzie said.

People are starting to understand that high school takes some students longer than four years, she said.
Oh yes, they have another improvement. Those students who excel in school will be awarded up to five stars on their diplomas:
Winn said the goal is not to stigmatize students who barely scrape by. Instead, it will make good grades a little more special for students.

"High school graduation will mean more," he said.
Will it mean more for those poverty students who beat the incredible odds to scrape by and to actually graduate--with no stars, of course? But who's counting?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:25 PM

    I wonder if my state officials' plan is to avoid having Florida tagged as a low-graduation state by such incredibly left-wing folks as Jay Greene.

    No matter. There are other ways to keep them accountable.