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Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

Lawsuits can not replace learning

Sunday, September 22, 2002

In some ways, public education in this nation is in trouble. There's a growing indication that public education is being strongly challenged by private and parochial schools to capture students and guide their educational needs. This growing gap between these two approaches to education will become a battleground in the years ahead. I have said that countless times in the past.

Some critics believe that public education has actually failed in the mission to educate our youth. You've all heard the stories of students unable to read despite a high school diploma. It's these horror stories along with issues of discipline that have tarnished the image of public education.

In some areas, states have begun requiring exit exams for graduates as a means to assure the public that their education has been successful. These exams simply assure the public that indeed the public education system is turning out students who have the basic skills to survive in society.

Massachusetts state officials decided to implement an exit exam that gave students five chances beginning in their sophomore year to pass a basic test showing they had mastered the basics of English and math. Other states, including Texas, have long had similar exit exams.

But state officials are finding that nearly half of the minority students are unable to pass these exit exams. That compares with a 19 percent failure rate for all students. Obviously there's a problem with the educational success of minority students that public education must accept and improve.

I would think that minority groups would be up in arms with this high failure rate and begin a process of working with public educators to improve these numbers. Without these basic educational skills, these students face an uphill battle for jobs and success in careers.

But instead, minority groups have filed suit against Massachusetts state officials claiming the tests are discriminatory. I am baffled by what appears to me to be a wrong approach and attitude toward the exit exams.

I would think these minority groups would demand that public education work harder to improve the success rate of minority students. I would think these results would lead to an increased dialogue on how to address the educational needs of minority students. But instead, these groups want to eliminate the tests. By default that means these groups are satisfied that half of their students cannot master simple skills to graduate from high school.

Minority groups believe the tests "punish" minority students. I honestly don't have a clue on how they arrive at this conclusion. And again these groups do a great disservice to their students by challenging the tests themselves.

Until we recognize that lawsuits cannot replace learning, we're in for a bumpy road ahead.



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