California’s state board of education wisely chose to postpone the graduation exam rather than weaken the test or lower the passing score, writes Daniel Weintraub in the Sacramento Bee. But the fight for accountability goes on. Unlike other tests, the graduation exam has consequences for students, which makes it dangerous for schools.
When kids fail, people start asking questions. Did the child try hard enough? Did the parents push hard enough? Did the school provide the proper coursework and materials? Was the teaching sufficient?
All of those questions are uncomfortable for a segment of the education establishment that would rather fuzz things up, pat kids on the head for making a good try and send them on their way with no concrete sense of what they have taken with them after 13 years of seat time in the public schools. This is a mindset that has filled our colleges with remedial classes and has frustrated employers who can’t find a clerk who can spell or compute.
If the exam demands that students learn reading, writing and math skills, some students will fail. In particular, recent immigrants who haven’t had enough time to master English — nice, hard-working kids — may not be able to pass, even with multiple tries. Some disabled students — nice, hard-working kids — won’t be able to pass.
Any state that requires students to demonstrate academic competence to earn a high school diploma will need a “certificate of completion” or some other euphemism for the nice kids who didn’t make it. Every year, as teachers and students adjust to the demands of the graduation exam, more students will earn an academic diploma and fewer will have to settle for a seat-time certificate. But Weintraub is right: Some kids will fail.