Excellence not required

Excellence shouldn’t be the goal of Washington state’s school system says Judith Billings, a former state superintendent who’s running for her old office on an anti-testing, anti-charters platform. Billings told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

“Everybody does not need to be a math whiz. Everybody does not need to be a spectacular writer.”

Good thing too. Everybody’s not.

Billings may be the union candidate once again, writes Stefan Sharkansky.

About Joanne


  1. Mother of pearl, what is going on in this country!?!? Ok, well then I don’t think we should shoot for excellence in anything. Let’s not fight the terrorists, let give up on that whole notion of freedom, I say thhppt to civil rights, nevermind overcoming that whole gender and racial inequality, and who gives a hoot about American dream. It seems that just about average really is good enough, GOD FORBID we ever set high goals and strive to meet them. Un-friggin’-believable

  2. Joanne, you make a very good point that not every student can be expected to be a math whiz.

    Sadly, Billings seems to be defining “math whiz” as someone who can pass the WASL.

    Here is question #1 from the state’s sample of 10th grade Math WASL questions:

    Look at the chart below.
    Which planet has the largest mass?
    A. Mercury
    B. Venus
    C. Earth
    D. Mars
    Planet Mass
    Mercury 3.30 x 10^23 kg
    Venus 4.87 x 10^24 kg
    Earth 5.97 x 10^24 kg
    Mars 6.42 x 10^23 kg

    If it takes a “math whiz” to answer this question, we’re in serious trouble unless our schools produce more than a few “math whiz”s

  3. Stupidity is our friend… A stupid (uneducated) person is a controllable person

  4. T.S. Allen says:

    Down here in Louisiana, Whiz and Spectacular aren’t achievement levels on our tests. We’re just praying our students can reach Basic. What will Billings campaign slogan be? “Setting expectations low enough so everyone’s a winner.”

  5. Richard Nieporent says:

    With Judith Billings as state superintendent, nobody will have to worry about “Examination Day”.

  6. Mad Scientist says:

    When you strive for mediocrity, you will be lucky to obtain it.

  7. Joanne,
    This site is schizophrenic…
    One minute you post something to the effect that
    the “elites” poo-poo vocational ed and try to force every student into college mode… (and then everyone writes in the comments about how noble it is to be a carpenter, car mechanic, etc… and how not everyone is meant to go to college)…

    But then some “liberal” or “union type” says something along those lines… and now we have gnashing of teeth about how liberals have lowered standards, yada yada yada…

    Of course, there is NUANCE to the issue… I guess nuance just gets lost in the blogging environment… but also of course, if you can spin things so that you assign evil motives to the liberal, all the better.

  8. First of all, I think of the site as eclectic. I link to stories I think readers will be interested in reading.

    Second, I agreed with Billings that everybody doesn’t have to be a “math whiz” or a “spectacular writer.” Perhaps it wasn’t obvious, till Stefan pointed it out, but passing Washington’s state test — or any state’s test — doesn’t require “whiz” or “spectacular” skills. Even mediocrity isn’t essential.

    Academic competence is necessary to train for a skilled blue-collar job. Many young people can’t get into apprenticeship programs or community college vocational programs or entry-level jobs because they lack basic reading and math skills.

  9. Jack Tanner says:

    “Everybody does not need to be a math whiz. Everybody does not need to be a spectacular writer.”

    Shoot for the stars.