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R. D. Skidmore

A State of Education
By R.D. Skidmore, Prof.
Nov 14, 2003 - 2:04:00 PM

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In April of 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education presented to President Reagan and the American People their findings on education in “A Nation at Risk.”
Richard Skidmore is a professor at Los Angeles Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California.

Their findings: “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people . . . if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

This report put education reform at the top every state and even the national agenda. Education is the dominant budget item.

Educators talk about standards, new standards, enforced standards, and improved curriculum development.

Yet, over the past twenty years story after story surfaces about education being “dumbed” down. Our students perform, on a world standard, at the bottom in mathematics, sciences, national language skills, and are basically void of their national history.

President Bush even put education first with his “No Child Left Behind” legislation.

School Superintendents and High School principals always report about the few exceptional students that go on to university education. But when asked about the normal high school graduate, they report that they are happy if their graduating 12th graders are reading, writing and calculating at an 8th grade level—meaning the normal student is performing below 8th grade standards.

It is reported that in California 80% of new students entering Community Colleges require one or two courses in remedial English and mathematics before they are ready for College English or Mathematics. To the credit of the Community College, they are able to prepare these, now, adult learners to be successful with continued education.

Educational accomplishment can also be translated into earning power.

In 1997, the RAND Company presented a report, “Breaking the Social  Contract,” stating that the high school graduate of 2015 will have a purchasing power 40+% less than their high school graduate grandparent of 1976. To put this in perspective: if the high school graduate of 1976 earned $12,000 per year, which represents their purchasing power (the ability to pay rent, utilities, buy food, etc.), the 2015 graduate will be earn only $7,200 - a hefty pay cut!

In the market place, the United States Labor Department reports, statistically, that the trend for employers is to only hire College degreed individuals (Associates degree or Bachelors degree) for entry-level positions when they used to fill them with high school graduates.

In the supply and demand world, employers are the demanders of educated and modestly skilled labor, and schools are the suppliers. Employers are leaving the inferiorly trained High School graduate for the improved college trained.

Are our Community Colleges and Universities now providing a true measure of the high school graduate?

Popular recognition of poor educational quality control has led to calls for student testing as a condition for high school graduation, but is met with resistance from the education establishment.

In California, the passing score for the high school exit exam was lowered to 55%, and delayed because too many students would fail.

Now the state Board of Education voted to remove some of the more difficult math and English questions to make its exit exam even easier. But according to board member Carol S. Katzman, “I don’t think we’re dumbing down the test in any way.”

Students will face more questions about computing averages -- a skill taught in sixth grade -- and using estimation to check whether results are reasonable, a seventh-grade math standard.

English questions will also be pared -- deleting a requirement that students write a bibliography of reference materials, develop research questions and methods to "elicit and present evidence from primary and secondary sources" and having students demonstrate proper manuscript formats, such as title page, spacing and margins.

These progressive changes were made at the request of Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, targeting the class of 2006 for quality control.

Deborah Meier, founder of New York's Central Park East schools, condemned standardized tests as failing to "measure the only important qualities of a well-educated person. ... Life scores (not math scores) based on living" should be the educator's concern.

Other educators argue that testing is "abusive," "inaccurate," "meaningless", “[an] attack on intellectual freedom” and "a highly effective means of social control."

Ignorance is the most effective means of social control that I know.

When a 12th grader receives a diploma that actually represents an 8th grade education, and is relegated to an earning power that is 40% less than his high school graduated grandfather, maybe this is an act of war requiring subjugated servitude!

Skidmore is a professor at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Ca. He may be contacted at rskidmor49@excite.com.


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