Lowering bar wont raise the outcomes

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Throughout history, societies rise and fall because of countless reasons. Greed and dishonesty often precede those historic declines but sometimes societies start that gradual fall in much smaller and less-noticed ways.

Here's a classic example that has meaning far beyond the headline.

Teachers in New York will no longer be required to pass a basic reading and writing literacy exam. Why? Because far too many minority candidates fail the test.

The test has been a requirement for a number of years and helps the school systems there choose the very best candidates to teach our future leaders.

But just 41 percent of black teaching candidates and 46 percent of Hispanic candidates pass the test annually. The success rate for white candidates is 64 percent, which, while still alarming, is nonetheless the benchmark for New York teaching candidates.

Are you ready for this?

The test is a multiple choice quiz meant to assure appropriate educational standards for the new teachers.

Yet even with a multiple choice test, less than half of minority candidates can pass.

But instead of revising the test or providing additional tutoring prior to the test, New York officials have decided to scrap the tests completely.

The same New York school officials have acknowledged that most teaching programs there cannot ensure that "most incoming candidates are among the top half of college students".

So the solution is to dramatically lower the bar (or in this case, eliminate the bar) and put mediocrity ahead of excellence. And as you can imagine, when you lower the standards, you lower the outcome.

This academic surrender by the fine state of New York is lost in more important headlines. It's hard to generate any substantial discussion on diminished teacher qualifications when our focus is on terrorism or health care or immigration.

But as I said earlier, societies fall by the wayside sometimes because of lesser events that eventually create greater problems.

Perhaps in America we really don't need more money for education but rather a return to excellence that puts learning at the forefront. And to do just that requires sharp teachers who know their subject matter and can pass that knowledge on to their students.

There is but one guarantee from this boneheaded move. Teacher quality and effectiveness will suffer when we fail to hold our teachers to a high standard.

And you don't reach that high standard by lowering the bar of learning.

Michael Jensen

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