WASHINGTON (AP) -- It doesn't add up.
Two federal reports out Thursday offer conflicting messages about how well high-schoolers are doing academically.
One showed that seniors did poorly on national math and reading tests.
The other -- a review of high school transcripts from 2005 graduates -- showed students earning more credits, taking more challenging courses and getting better grades...
The transcript study showed that 2005 high school graduates had an overall grade-point average just shy of 3.0 -- or about a B. That has gone up from a grade-point average of about 2.7 in 1990.
It is unclear whether student performance has improved or whether grade inflation or something else might be responsible for the higher grades, the report said.
And what about all the kids who take tougher classes?
"I'm guessing that those levels don't connote the level of rigor that we think they do. Otherwise kids would be scoring higher on the NAEP test," said David Gordon, a governing board member and the superintendent of schools in Sacramento, California.
Mark Schneider, commissioner of the federal National Center for Education Statistics, said the government would conduct a study examining the rigor of high school courses.
Such a study could be crap. What worthwhile information could you draw from a study of high school courses nationwide? Unless there's something of which I'm not thinking, the only value you'd get would be at the school or teacher level. Anything higher than that would be too general to be useful.
So what's being tested? What's causing this concern about course rigor?
On the math test, about 60 percent of high school seniors performed at or above the basic level. At that level, a student should be able to convert a decimal to a fraction, for example.
Just one-fourth of 12th-graders were proficient or better in math, meaning they demonstrated solid academic performance. To qualify as "proficient," students might have to determine what type of graph should be used to display particular types of data...
On the math test, 29 percent of white students reached the proficient level, compared with 8 percent of Hispanics and 6 percent of blacks.
Obviously the standards aren't very high, so what causes those results? White racist teachers, a culture that doesn't value education, the soft bigotry of low expectations? And what can be done about it?
One of the stated goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law is to reduce the gaps in achievement between whites and minorities.
The law is up for review this year. It currently requires reading and math tests annually in grades three through eight and once in high school. The Bush administration wants to add more testing in high school.
Here's where the lefties will squeal: testing isn't teaching! Of course it's not, and it's not designed to teach any more than checking your cholesterol is designed to lower your cholesterol. We need testing data, however, to better target any reforms and/or improvements. If you don't know where the problem is--and I hope we can all agree there's a problem--you can't fix it.
Don't you think that after 12 years of schooling, students deserve to be able to do more than convert a decimal to a fraction, and should in fact be able to do so?