U.S. education has been dumbed down, writes Marc Tucker in Ed Week.
High school textbooks for 12th graders are written at the 7th- or 8th-grade level, while community colleges have labeled basic algebra — usually taught in 8th- or 9th-grade — “college math.” And many of their students can’t pass it.
Forty years earlier, Grandma was the first in the family to finish high school. Twenty years ago, Dad was the first to go to college. Now, all the kids have to go to college. . . . In other countries, grades are the result of a student’s performance on an externally graded test. Everyone gets together to help Junior meet the high standards. In the U.S., the land of second chances and wobbly standards, it is far easier to put pressure on the principal to put pressure on the teacher to give Junior the grades required to get into college.
Teaching is no longer a high-status job — and one of the few jobs open to talented women and minorities, Tucker writes. Teacher quality has declined.
Then the standards movement was stolen by the accountability movement. Facing tough sanctions from the federal government for low test scores, many states lowered whatever standards they had for high school students, so they could escape the consequences of poor student performance.
. . . the best of our high school graduates, seeing the pressure teachers were under to produce under appalling conditions, decided not to choose teaching as a career. Applications to schools of education started to fall and are now falling ever faster.
Unlike other nations, the U.S. has not raised standards for entering teachers’ colleges or earning a license, he writes.
Colleges have lowered standards to retain students “admitted irrespective of their academic performance,” Tucker writes. At the same, “have more or less destroyed what was once a first-class vocational and technical education system.”