Although high schools have been adding rigorous-sounding courses like calculus and Advanced Placement English to the curriculum for at least ten years, according to the most recent National Education Achievement Progress (NAEP) report, 17-year-olds in 2009 scored no higher in reading and math than they did in 1973.
Slapping a difficult-sounding title on a course is apparently as easy as handing out a passing grade to any child with a pulse.
A study of textbooks at Michigan State University analyzed test scores of 13,000 American eighth-graders and compared the content of their math textbooks with what their course titles suggested was actually being taught.
“In about 15 percent of the cases, the textbook covered less advanced areas of math than the course name suggested,” said William H. Schmidt, who led the Michigan research. “The titles didn’t reveal much at all about how advanced the course was.”
Isn’t it time that parents and teachers stopped playing along with the charade that passes for education in too many U. S. schools? Parents need to be clear about what they expect their children to learn. They should not rely entirely on school reports and standardized test scores, but monitor their children’s progress for themselves.
Parents should not be reassured by being told that a child is performing “at the national average or above.” The national average is abysmal. Even an “average” child should score in the 80th percentile for basic subjects.
Teachers need to grade on the basis of what the child has learned. A grade of C should represent a minimum level of achievement. Children who are habitually absent should be placed in an ungraded environment in which they can be taught in self-contained mini-lessons when they do come to school.