http://www.leconsulting.com/arthurhu/98/08/testing.htm

Unpublished, originally presented to National Review but

To be submitted in a shorter version

Written April-Aug 1998

Arthur Hu

12422 107th PL NE Kirkland WA 98034

206-748-5347

arthurhu@halcyon.com

5764 words

 

This is Not Just a Test: Re-inventing Dumbed Down Education as "Higher Standards"

In my college days at MIT, we used to have a joke about the test that was so hard that everyone scored below average. But it was no joke when Washington State has "raised the bar" so high that 80 percent of Washington's 4th graders, and 95 percent of minorities fell short of new math standards on its new "performance-based" test.

Conservatives are cheering the return of really hard tests, and joining in the outcry against such "low" performance. But nobody is asking questions about why a reform movement founded by liberals on the premise that all will succeed is giving a test that nearly all are flunking. How can 80% of students be performing below grade level expectations when the 50th percentile level traditionally IS the definition of grade level?

How can you call a score "low" when the kids are just as smart as when they scored average on every other norm-referenced test given to state students? What they've done is discard the notion that most will be average in favor of expecting that ALL will perform at the highest levels. Yet it is putting into practice the untested notion that the only reason not every kid is good enough to get into Harvard is that we set different standards for different kids.

Who and where do these ideas come from? In reality, the call for "higher standards" and "the new basics" does not come from those who favor basic skills. Few suspect that the "standards based education" movement it is just the newest re-invented face of "dumbed-down" outcome-based education.

In Meredith Wilson's "Music Man", a swindler comes to town selling the idea of a school band, but he first needed to convince everyone that there was "Trouble in River City". Only a tiny cadre of parents mobilized against Reform know that America's true Secretary of Education Reform is an unelected man named Marc Tucker. He promises that if we give him enough years, money, and reforms, all children will master these "world class standards for the 21st Century". It's too bad that our children would probably be better off if reformers simply took the money and ran.

As the head of the Washington DC based National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE), he has been the leading architect and promoter of the "Standards-Based Education Reform" movement since the late 1980s. Like a multi-headed Hydra, the NCEE operates through many different faces as the New Standards Project, the National Alliance for Restructuring Education, and Commission on Skills of the American Workplace. Through all of these fronts, Tucker has signed enough contracts with enough states and districts to cover as many half of the public school children in the United States.

In 1992, Tucker outlined his vision to Bill and Hillary Clinton in an infamous letter widely quoted on the Internet. That vision was based on his landmark 1989 report "High Skills or High Wages". That report also was the basis for the later "SCANS" Secretary's Commission on Necessary Skills report of the Bush administration. The SCANS report laid the groundwork for federal School-To-Work legislation. This program threatens to put all American students on a vocational track and transform education into a tool of industry. Tucker's latest 1998 book "Standards For Our Schools" updates this vision by calling for abolishing the "comprehensive" high school, even as nations like Germany are considering adopting the US system.

Tucker's plan would create a new generation of tough "performance-based" tests benchmarked at "world class" levels, and radically revamp the curriculum to deliberately "teach to" the tests. To put an end to illiterate graduates, Tucker proposes a 10th grade "Certificate of Initial Mastery" (CIM), which would insure American high school graduates possess skills as good as those of any nation.

As an article in the April 1998 Phi Beta Kappan magazine states, the mantra "all kids will learn" will become a reality. All students will be ready for college; there will be no need for tracking or remedial courses. With the promise of results like that, it's no wonder that both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have embraced this movement.

But the new "accountability" rules resemble the quota-based thinking of affirmative action. Merely by setting the target date far enough into the future, it is assumed by that by passing out enough carrots and sticks, it will force all students to pass these tests by some target date set far into the future.

The flip side of this "promised land" is that is that Tucker and his friends will control the American equivalent of work permits. For all the progressive talk about eliminating "punishment" for low achievers, anyone who does not pass these politically correct "outcomes" will be denied jobs and training and left out of the brave new 21st century world economy.

It says a lot about the merit of Tucker's original plan when every state has dropped his original proposal of denying 11th and 12th grade or college entrance to those who do not pass. Indeed, Oregon narrowly defeated language that would make it illegal to work without a CIM.

Clinton's health care plan was debated and shot down in national debate. Federal attempts to impose radical new national testing have so far also met defeat. Opposition is mounting to federal Goals 2000 and "School to Work" laws that would mandate radical new education standards. But as Doug Carnine of the University of Oregon told Washington State legislators, it is the states, not the federal government that is taking over local control with radical new standards.

K12 education takes up half of the budget in states like California and Washington. "Big Education" is one of America's largest service industries, on a scale comparable to health care. That makes education a prime target of social reformers. We've finally arrived at the day when we are literally spending more on education than defense. "Reform" is where all of the liberal nonprofit foundation and government research dollars are now going.

"Education Reform" is actually "Deform"-ing education. Public polls show that parents are demanding an emphasis on basic skills. But they don't realize that "the new basics" they are getting are guided by progressive education theories. The radicals seek an educationally classless society just as they have sought to eliminate economic and racial class differences with socialism and affirmative action quotas.

They reject basic skills as a foundation precisely because it is the proven path for the most successful kids, with the assumption that something else must work for the other kids. So they change the emphasis to "higher order thinking" based on the assumption that underachievers will latch onto whole language and problem solving instead.

New constructivist approaches to math and reading replace direct sequential instruction of basic skills. "Discovery" and "spiral" curriculums are in. Children are expected to construct, and are graded on concepts like probability and ratio before they are even first explained to them. They wonder why students should be deprived of learning to run just because they can’t walk yet.

But emphasis on "higher order" thinking skills only leaves underachievers up a creek without a paddle by throwing skills 2 or 3 years ahead of grade level at kids that are 2 or 3 years behind. If anything, actual evidence shows the same kids who ace rote learning are even farther ahead in "thinking" skills.

"Reform" has resulted in spectacular education disasters such as the Whole Language Wars. Now we have a generation of Californians who can’t read. Yet, even as some reformers are ready to concede that Whole Language was a misguided failure, these same people are leading states like California into "Whole Math". Affluent school districts like Palo Alto, unhappy with 90th percentile math scores, jumped into the new constructivist math.

But they only met a revolt when their test scores plummeted to the 60th percentile. Similar results have been reported in communities in Michigan, Vermont and other states. Ironically, one common response is that "the tests haven't been aligned with the new standards yet".

Outrage with such "reforms" has sparked a new parent and citizen militia with web sites such as San Diego's famous "Mathematically Correct" site. The lines being drawn in cyberspace is clear when every pro-reform site is run by different parts of the education industry funded by tax, for-profit or foundation money, but every one of the dozens of dissenting sites is run by parents and citizens out of their own pockets.

Parents find their straight-A children placed into remedial math by college placement tests, and get notes from their school to not "impose their own notions of math" on their children. But the insurgents are making headway, having succeeded in wresting control of the California’s new state standards. Where California once decreed that "early memorization of math facts" is harmful, now they have tough specific basic standards, despite efforts of state Superintendent Delaine Eastin to keep the multiplication tables and long division out of the curriculum in the name of "higher" standards.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NTCM) largely wrote the book on new "standards". Ironically, this response to low test scores is largely responsible for the fuzzy "new new" math which results in even lower scores than before. They complain that students are still spending too much time in lectures and practicing on worksheets instead of writing how they feel about math, playing with computers, and using "manipulatives" like counting M&Ms.

Ironically, while the new tests are flunking minorities, their nemesis, "Direct Instruction" of phonics and math facts remains the only method proven to lift even the poorest urban minorities to suburban test score levels. Scores as high as 60th to 85th percentile have been demonstrated (and largely ignored or attacked) in schools like Thaddeus Lott's Wesley elementary in Houston, and the Barclay school in Baltimore. Yet textbooks based on such systems are often condemned to "unapproved lists" because they have "too many drill problems", and lack units teaching children how to identify important lesbian Latinos and Africans in science, or how to use "inventive spelling".

The original educational reform that promised that "All Will Succeed" was called "Outcome Based Education", or OBE. OBE was itself called "Mastery-based Education" in the 70s before it was run out of town. OBE was presented to Washington State as "Performance-Based Education" in 1993, but elsewhere, it's being sold as "Standards-Based" Education.

OBE originally set modest goals based on feelings, not academics. George K. Cunningham of the University of Louisville is author of the new book "Assessment in the Classroom: Constructing and Interpreting Tests" (Falmer Press). He believes that the new School-To-Work movement spearheaded by Tucker has wrested OBE away from progressive wimps by replacing feelings with tests tough enough to impress the conservatives. True progressives like Alfie Kohn and Jonathan Kozol fear such standards will merely keep the underachievers in their place instead of forcing all to succeed.

Children will no longer be free to decide whether they want to coast with a C or D, or give their lives to nerd-dom. Now teachers will become academic storm troopers who will force their kids to achieve at world class levels ... or else.

In the name of "accountability", the schools with the worst performance will be fined, even though they are generally the ones with the poorest and most minority children. The best schools, who are typically blessed with the most affluent and talented children, will get financial rewards. Or, as Kentucky found, even the best schools will be penalized if they can't deliver a magic 10% improvement over perfect scores. Such madness is perhaps the most glaring defect in trying to blindly apply Total Quality Management to schools as if they were factories spitting out identical gears and cogs.

The new tests deliberately bear so little resemblance to current textbooks that you must toss the entire curriculum "root and branch", to quote Tucker. This is necessary not only to camouflage poor performance on traditional norm-based tests, but to guarantee initially low scores, and insure that by forcing schools to "align" their curriculums, they will be able to show continual improvement each year.

States like Kentucky have been able to brag of such improvement, even as scores on tests such as the ACT and SAT have fallen. Such "criterion-based" tests throw the bell curve to the wind by rating students against a moving standard. Scores rise as tests are revised to be easier, and teachers teach to the test. People in Washington have noted that the so-called "standard" set by sample tests get progressively easier starting from a nearly impossible 4th grade test to a difficult 7th grade to a nearly reasonable 10th grade test, which would also give the impression of progress.

Tucker's good fortune is that Clinton chose health care instead of education reform, which freed him to sign up the education industry at the local and state levels, outside the watchful eyes of the national press. His plan stated "we plan to use the most effective tools in the arsenal of modern media and the best of community organizing methods". Thus, Washington's State Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson hired the same public relations firm that sells Democratic candidates. The result in Washington and every other like-minded state is newspapers devoting entire sections to front-page stories and editorials, while none have quoted even a single critic of the new tests.

They created a "Commission on Student Learning " to engineer the new test. Washington's corporate "Partnership for Learning" provides an outlet for corporations like Boeing, Aldus, and Weyerhauser to bankroll a statewide "campaign tour" with free breakfasts in fancy hotels, and ads on McDonald’s tray liners. They also pay for stacks of expensive glossy literature handed out at special forums on the new test funded by every local school. While funding for political campaigns is carefully limited, this stuff is worth millions, not counting the millions or billions spent actually developing and administering the test.

The only opposition is by scattered Internet sites and mailing lists such as the Education Consumers and Fred Battey's Education Loop run by parents without a big PR budget or access to forums in local schools. In Washington state the spin is that this is part of a grass roots movement which were set in place by a 1993 state law which mandated "Performance-based" education and testing. But "kitchen militia" mother Chey Simonton found out that in fact, Marc Tucker first proposed that Washington create such a test back in 1991, and he personally helped craft the legislation to codify the state's contract with the NCEE. Tucker and his friends also worked to developed the processes used identically by Washington and several other states such as Vermont and Kentucky to create such assessments by using "consensus" to get committees to all come to the same pre-determined outcomes and standards, yet appear to be local.

Already, Tucker’s plans have gone astray as Washington and some other states have since cancelled their contract with Tucker's NCEE. Today many educators are ignorant or even deny that their reforms were even inspired by the NCEE. But for all their different names and variations, they all follow Tucker's original plan, all their benchmark standards and tests look alike. Now the NCEE is behind the newly formed ACHIEVE which seeks to tie back the various state standards that "got away" back into the national standards initially envisioned by Tucker.

This spring, Washington State gave the first real run of the "Washington Assessment of Student Learning" after warning that the new tests were raising standards and expectations far higher than before. Students would be measured against what all students should know, not just compared with an average. Parents were warned to expect high rates of failure.

Terry Bergeson said that 70 percent of 10th graders could be expected to fall below the "standard" of expected performance, but they wouldn't be held to that as a graduation standard until this year's 4th graders eventually graduate. But it would be left up to schools figure out how to teach children how to respond to tests that require written answers and "higher order thinking". The challenge would be improve "learning" each year until all students perform to these "world class standards", and students are required to pass these "standards" to get their CIM. Similar headlines could be found in Colorado, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and numerous other states.

The resulting test is actually typical of the new generation of tests which throw everything we know about "Bell Curve" inspired multiple choice tests into the wind. All bias is banished. Students can take as much time as they wish, and testing is broken up over several days. There are no "wrong" answers when problems are graded on a 1-4 scale from "demonstrates little skill" up to "meets" or "exceeds" expectations. Even some multiple choice math problems require written explanations that must be in complete sentences. Questions are scored by not by computers, but trained experts who grade "holistically".

Such schemes are already starting to unravel at the seams. Every state promises achievement of high goals for all, yet no small scale study, let alone a state, has demonstrated anything close to teaching all students how to meet these "standards". California's ambitious CLAS went down in flames after only 2 years. Administrators admitted that the reason no students, even at the best schools got top "5" scores was that they decided at the start to give out no such scores in order to emphasize the "need for reform". Parents sued because it was intruding on values and beliefs, and scores were completely unreliable.

Kentucky's KIRIS took a billion dollars and seven years to be tossed into the waste bin of history. It was canceled after massive scoring goofs, widespread cheating by teachers, and questions as to its validity of showing alleged progress when every other measure shows declines. Yet undaunted by such failures, states like Washington believe that they won't make the same mistakes, and even Kentucky is replacing KIRIS with nearly the same thing.

Washington's test was hard. Really hard. Even college-educated parents were baffled by the sample questions. 80% of fourth graders didn't meet the "standard" for math. About half of kids fell below standard in reading and writing. Bellevue's Somerset elementary, where 90% scored above average on the CTBS was held as proof that the test wasn't too hard. After all, 70% passed. But anyone who can subtract can tell that means 30% failure, and that was the best scoring public school in the state.

As much as the tried to banish the Bell Curve, it was simply swept under the rug, but shifted so that half of kids scored "1" . That means "knows next to nothing", where the bottom 50 traditionally is the definition of grade level. So the movement that says, "all will succeed" has created a test that nearly all will fail.

Everyone has assumed that multiple choice tests are bad for minorities. But if essay tests are harder, and thinking about skills which are not directly taught is harder than fact recall, this is going to make any performance gap even worse. George K Cunningham cites many studies that show this is precisely what we find in actual results. The press ignored data that shows that the Washington minority math scores are nearly one standard deviation behind whites – the same gap found in hated IQ tests. Even conservative groups have also started to seize poor minority performance in opposing the national tests.

Minority leaders were outraged when 95% or nearly all African American and Hispanic minorities failed, as did inner city schools like Renton's Campbell Hill elementary. Such students were used to scores of 35% to 45% above average on the CTBS tests. That might be worse than average, but it was hardly flunking everybody. The California press ignored racial differences in the 1993 CLAS scores. But half of minorities scored in the "knows next to nothing" category, compared to one quarter of whites.

Sure, not all disparity is bias. But when the size of the gap depends on the difficulty of the test, why do we need a test as hard as an IQ test for what "every learner is expected to know"? Tucker wrote in 1992 that he wanted an end to tests that underestimate" the abilities of minorities, and FairTest enthusiastically favors "performance-based" tests for minorities. But these new tests actually rank minorities even farther behind.

We are told these new tests measure something "entirely different". Yet whether we look at California's the CLAS, or Washington, the highest scoring districts and schools were all in the same affluent white communities like Palo Alto. The worst were all in the same predominantly minority areas like East Palo Alto, and Oakland. When the Seattle Times ranked the top and bottom public elementary schools by the CTBS Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills and the new assessment, Somerset, Lakeridge and West Mercer Island appeared in both top 10 lists (80%-90% above 50th percentile or 50%-70% met standard). Tulalip, Madrona, and Thurgood Marshall appeared in both bottom 10 lists (12%-25% above 50th percentile or 2%-6% met standard).

The University of Tennessee’s Bill Sanders found that in comparisons of other tests which have a "performance-based" component, the rank ordering was exactly the same as on the multiple choice parts in every case. So what we've got is a more expensive and less reliable way to get what we already knew with multiple choice machine scored tests.

George Cunningham's book states that it is impossible to set expected skills without looking at what actual kids can do. How can you say that 80% of students don't meet expectation when the 50th percentile average kid is in fact what an average kid can do? Cunningham says that there are many ways to get committees to define Tucker's "how good is good enough", but they rarely end up at the same place, and almost always end up setting levels that fail half the population or more.

George Cunningham has noted that although the tests are supposed to based on written "benchmarks", set at international levels, in practice, the benchmarks are either chasing the actual tests, or bear no resemblance at all. Kentucky actually wrote their test first. Washington's math benchmarks clearly puts "area = width times height" in the 7th grade column, yet 4th graders are asked to compare the area of pizzas given their height and width. Independent probability appears in the 10th grade, yet students are asked if getting heads 6 out of 10 times changes the probability of getting heads. Several problems involve concepts such unit conversion, comparing uncommon fractions. These, and concepts like rates, ratios and computing probability are all pinned at the 7th grade and higher benchmarks, yet appear in the 4tt grade test.

Nearly half of the 4th grade questions appear to require skills specified at the 7th or 10th grade levels, or not mentioned at any grade. Washington’s test "draft specification" states specifies decimal money is permitted in the 4th grade, but the "benchmark" specified only whole numbers. The "specification" assesses for "mean, median and mode" in the 4th grade when they don’t appear until the 7th grade benchmark. The State Superintendent insists that all questions are compliant. Yet Gordon Ensign of the Commission on Student Learning which created the test, has not been able to confirm compliance, only that they were approved by the committees that designed the test. But at least one person who was on a committee confirms that nowhere in the process did anybody actually check the assumption that initially submitted problems were compliant to the actual benchmark sequence.

The first page of a college level SAT sample test actually has more problems compliant with Washington’s 4th grade benchmarks than their test. The SAT also consistently has easier versions of the same problems. None of the half dozen 4th grade textbooks or other state standards I have seen even begins to explain how to solve half of these problems.

The fact is that since I learned how to solve nearly all of these problems by the time I finished my degree at MIT shows its not problem solving at all, but requiring students to "figure out" what should be directly taught to them 2 or 4 grades ahead. The Exemplar organization of Vermont gives a sample 4th grade project where students are graded on how they apply concepts of ratio, and the relationship of error to sample size without ever having been exposed or instructed on any of these statistical concepts. These traditionally appear in middle or high school textbooks. Thus testing anything that the student was actually taught is dismissed as mere "rote recall".

Cunningham estimates the level expected of Kentucky seniors to be equal to a typical college graduate student. A student at Tufts wrote in the Boston Globe that he showed a sample of the Massachusetts test to a friend who said he recognized some of the problems from a college-level advanced placement test.

Marc Tucker's NCEE is peddling its own "New Standards" tests which newspapers have heralded for being "benchmarked to world standards". But 10th grade solution requires a 2 view dimensioned drawing, and computing the volume of a truncated frustum a "real life" estimate of the volume of a 2 liter soda bottle. Their 4th grade "applied learning "standard is to design a bicycle trailer complete with a 3 view drawing, and a parts list complete with "counter sink drill bit". These are clearly not inspired by any German or Japanese test. For all their locally based "committees" to draw up benchmarks, there is a common pattern among all these tests of testing 4th graders for ratio, symmetry, and probability skills which appear at 7th grade or higher on any corresponding "standards-based" curriculum. Even the Japanese national math standards save advanced concepts like symmetry until the 6th grade.

Most "experts" can get away with such outlandishly difficult problems since that most citizens only have a 7th or 8th grade math background. But even when MIT trained parents question the most obvious violations, they are brushed aside when Dave Andersen of the Commission of Student Learning contents that only their committees of math "experts"are qualified to make such a judgements. How can you match language arts skills against any sensible sequence of skills when every grade simply states "students will read and write with skill and comprehension"?

Reformers gleefully proclaim that these low scores prove our kids aren't meeting world standards when they don’t compare against other countries. It is a best kept secret that if you do look at tests which compare world ranks, US fourth graders ranked near the top in math on the TIMSS international test. Not only that, but every norm-referenced test shows Washington students to be equal or above national average. That puts the very same students to flunked out the WASL at the top of world. So the new tests aren’t comparing students against any established standard of any state or nation. It is being set against an entirely artificial new standard deliberately calculated to produce the appearance of failure.

People may criticize the "Lake Wobegon" effect when most states and many cities appeared to scoring "above average". But the fact is that most large cities and states are the very places that define "average". And while urban Seattle may be average, detail breakdowns of any city will give upper income suburbs and distressed inner cities very highest and lowest percentile rankings.

Difficult essay tests are being touted as the latest in test technology. But they were common a century ago before they were replaced by machine-scored multiple-choice tests. They proved to be more accurate, faster, cheaper to score, and applicable to a wide range of abilities.

While people like Tucker attack "multiple guessing" skills, it is the new tests that often require a guess when there may be more than one, or no correct answer. There is no way to guarantee the quality of subjective scoring, when there is little agreement on what constitutes a correct answer.

One famous presentation for the CLAS favored the solution that was not even mathematically correct. Most Washington math samples did not provide solutions, but the two that did provide "rubrics" were also incorrect. Yet it is statistically impossible to guess your way to a 99th percentile score on a norm-referenced test.

So what's wrong with teaching these new skills? Well, the new tests are requiring teachers to spend so much time giving practice on extended response tests that Cougar Ridge School in Issaquah is telling parents to help kids learn basic math skills at home. They’re supposed to concentrate on "higher order thinking" in school. And what’s the point of learning any specific 7th grade skills like ratio or proportion if they’re supposed to be able to "problem solve" these problems in the 4th grade test? George Cunningham points out that no one has ever been able to demonstrate that problem-solving skills can be taught at all.

So America is buying into more "accurate" tests with wildly unreliable scores. They are "world standard", yet they match no written benchmarks for any state or nation. At $25 or more instead of $2.50, they cost ten times more score, not counting the cost of tossing every old textbook and revamping every curriculum. It takes days instead of hours out of instructional time. Class time is devoted to scattershot "problem solving" sessions instead of teaching and drilling sequentially the basic skills needed to solve such problems.

These tests allow the magicians of reform to give the illusion of progress against the "new" curriculum even as basic skill scores fall into the basement. They are meant to be fairer to minorities, while slamming them with nearly complete failure. They are the wave of "innovation" even as experiences in California and Kentucky have already lead to billion dollar disasters.

The real experts on testing such as George Cunningham, and Bill Sanders both agree "alternative assessment" is simply not suitable for large scale testing and high stakes accountability. Yet "Big Education" is completely sold on any reforms they can sell to a gullible public. Today, "research" only means programs that were developed by researchers. "Tested" only means that the children didn’t spontaneously explode, not that they’ve been actually been demonstrated to produce better results.

But even if the tests were accurate and appropriate, they are only the foundation for an entire flawed standards based education model. No one asks why the ultimate goal of most of these tests is a 10th grade diploma when American seniors graduate in the 12th grade? It's because in most nations, a "world class" education ends at the 10th grade.

Tucker based his plan on Japan and Germany, and similarly inspired United Nations schemes, which are widely praised for apprenticeships and other education institutions aimed at students who aren't on the college track, but send very few students to college. According to Tucker, the United States has the most insidious system of tracking in the industrialized world. But no one has checked to find that Marc Tucker's Japan and Germany don't match his vision at all. They produce illiterate adults just like we do, except that Japan and Germany both track their students to a degree few would tolerate in the US. Both nations use test scores to sort their students into various grades of high schools.

In Japans "low-status" high schools, local headlines frequently spotlight teen girls arrested for prostitution. Germany’s Hauptschule is reserved for ineducables such as immigrants. They exit at the 9th grade without a diploma of any kind. Tucker's CIM is modeled after the "Mittle Reife" for middle class Germans who attend the Realschule. They essentially exit at grade 10 for 2 years of apprenticeship at half pay. The Gymnasium is reserved for tiny elite of the university-bound who have to pass tough exams to get into the best schools, and exit at the 12th and 13th grades, skipping vocational job experiences entirely.

The German apprentice system is a carryover from the Middle Ages when high school was reserved for the few elite. Vocational schools date from before WWII when most did not finish high school. Today, these work-track institutions are an anachronism when nearly all aspire to college. They have become dumping grounds for the losers who don't have test scores high enough to get into the best schools.

We take for granted a system where most students of all ranges of ability go to the same high school without having to pass a tough examination. Except for Hispanics, we now graduate nearly 90% of all other students at the 12th grade. Where most other nations reserve college for a tiny elite, 60% of American students will actually start college immediately after graduation. Over one-quarter will complete 4 years, among the highest rate in the world. That's far ahead of either Germany or Japan, especially for women.

While 70% of Germans exit at grade 10 into apprenticeships, tightening bolts for Volkswagen at half wage, well over half of our children are preparing for college. American "School To Work" legislation is transforming what is a work-track institution in other nations into something to be required of "all" students. Even the college bound will be required to nominate a vocational field, take days out of the week at a job site walking the floors at the local Saturn dealership or installing air conditioners to give education "a context" before they get their diploma.

All of this talk about "world class" ignores that it is the United States that has risen to be the world's only superpower. It is America that dominates all areas of technology, politics, economics, military, and culture. It companies like Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Boeing and even Ford and GM that utterly dominate their world markets and set world standards.

Few realize the extent that America has already bought into Marc Tucker's plan for the 21st Century. But in reality, it revives essay tests from a century ago, emulates a school-to-work system which dates from the Middle Ages, it penalizes the disadvantaged, and seeks to "catch up" with competitors who can't hold a candle to our economy.

 

Internet Links:

http://www.leconsulting.com/arthurhu/index/ edreform.htm for a complete guide to education reform / deform and testing.

Contact the author arthurhu@halcyon.com