Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Spellings Report: The Secretary Enlightens Us!

Now we finally know what the problem has been all these years with America's public high schools: Educators haven't been serious enough. Secretary Of Education Margaret Spellings takes high schools to the EduCratic woodshed and says that it's time to get serious:
Let's Get Serious

The Bush Administration Is Keeping Its Promise to 'Leave no Child behind,' but the Troubles of Our Older Students Are Still Mounting

The enduring image of American education in 2005 might be a child displaced from the Gulf Coast region, learning in a class room in Texas or Tennessee. It tells a great story about our schools, our teachers and our compassionate and welcoming nation. But there are other images: a ninth grader who cannot read, dropping out of school. A college freshman stumped by a science exam because he was not challenged in high school. A young engineer in India accepting a job with a major U.S. technology firm. They, too, tell us about the state of education in America.

In the knowledge economy, what you know is more important than where you live. So how do we keep our edge? First, by giving every student a quality education from the start. Four years ago we launched the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act. It promised higher classroom standards, more choices for parents and greater flexibility for states. Above all, it demanded accountability for results.

Our schools are delivering. Fourth- and eighth-grade math scores have risen to record highs, according to the "Nation's Report Card." Young African-American and Hispanic students have dramatically narrowed the "achievement gap." And among all 9-year-olds, more reading progress was made in the past five years than in the previous three decades. We're keeping our promise. Among older students, however, the world threatens to leave us behind.

The evidence is mounting and troubling. The United States has fallen to ninth in the world in high-school graduation rates among 25- to 34-year-olds. Studies show that less than half of those who do graduate are ready for college-level math and science. "The scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength," reports the respected National Academy of Sciences.

Thomas L. Friedman, author of "The World Is Flat," argues that other nations have learned to take advantage of innovations the United States pioneered. Sadly, in many respects, our education system has not taken advantage.

This is especially true of high schools, which Bill Gates calls "obsolete." Twelfth-grade exit exams usually measure ninth-and 10th-grade skills, leading colleges and employers to discount the results. Fewer than half the states require at least three years of math and science to graduate. Only one in five graduates in the work force says he or she was adequately challenged by coursework. It's no wonder high-school test scores have barely budged since the 1970s—or that states spend $220 million a year on remedial writing for public employees.

Our high schools deserve reform. The president and I want to provide states with the resources to measure student knowledge in core subjects annually, and to offer intensive reading instruction to students who badly need it. A high school diploma must be a ticket to success in college and the work force, which are increasingly connected in the knowledge economy. About 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs will require some postsecondary education.

But at a time when we need to take higher education more seriously, much of the media and culture treat it as a lark. While helping my daughter prepare for her freshman year, I found plenty of guides on the best party schools and "Schools That Rock," but none on, say, the highest earnings after graduation.

Parents and students need better information—and so do policymakers. I have formed the Commission on the Future of Higher Education to address the vital issues of access, affordability, accountability and quality. Too often, families assume that they are priced out of the college market. And too often, policymakers assume that students are being equipped with the critical thinking skills needed to prosper in the knowledge economy. We must replace assumptions with data.

Preparing for the future is a moral and economic imperative. Last year China's schools graduated more than 600,000 engineers and India's schools produced 350,000, compared with 70,000 in America. Do the math: their top 10 percent outnumbers all of America's. Many firms may agree with Intel chairman Craig R. Barrett: "If the world's best engineers are produced in India or Singapore, that is where our companies will go."

Thanks to our schools, the 20th century was known as the American century. The 21st century is still up for grabs. We know what works—higher expectations, more choices and better data. It's time to make education in America a picture of reform.
As with all of the diatribes statements by The Queen Of All Testing, nothing whatsover is said about the need for parents and students to also take some responsibility for their own academic success. As usual, Her Highness places 100% of the burden on the schools.

The mainstream media is full of accounts (such as this) of poorly disciplined students and schools that are hamstrung by laws forcing them to allow these violent students miscreants into our children's classrooms. The result is that many teachers have to spend valuable instructional time controlling/monitoring pupils who view school as little more than a "soft" target for their disruptive and threatening behaviors and their classmates as nothing more than potential victims for their criminal acts.

I find it strange that the Secretary and her minons never address issues of student and parent accountablity. The words "student self-discipline" and "student effort," have, to the best of my knowledge, (and we watch her goings and comings carefully) never crossed her lips.

And of course she would never tell students and parents to get serious, just educators.

Successful school reform must be a team effort that requires hard work from all three key elements of the team: parents, students, and educators.

Failure will result if any one of the key elements in the team refuses to put forth the maximum effort needed to obtain academic success. By themselves, the schools cannot achieve the noble goals of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Sadly, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and her political cronies refuse to acknowledge that fact. Seriously.
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