Standardized tests are flawed writes Ron Wolk in Teacher magazine. 

". . . they don't address the qualities that most parents want their children to have‹such as the skills and attitudes needed to continue learning on their own and to be good citizens, productive workers, and fulfilled human beings. Parents want their kids to develop virtues and values that we can all agree on, like diligence, honesty, tolerance, fairness, and compassion." 

Most parents do want their children to be fulfilled human beings. But they don't want the public schools to be judging their kids on level of fulfillment. On the other hand, they do think it's the school's job to teach reading, writing, math, history and science, and they'd like to know if their kids are learning those subjects. 

Some years ago, I was invited to talk to a committee at a school district considering a change in its graduation requirements. A parent asked if I thought they should require that students demonstrate good character, emotional well-being and a propensity for "life-long learning" in order to earn a diploma. After all, these are qualities we want in our young people. 

I said: Imagine a straight A student who's a nasty, mixed-up kid. Imagine yourself denying him a diploma on the grounds that he hasn't met your character or emotional health requirements. Do you really want to do that? Imagine a student who's learned nothing in 13 years of education. What makes you think she'll become a life-long learner in the future?

The district put all the blather in its mission statement, and stuck with academic graduation requirements. 

Bargaining chop

The California Teachers Association power grab is losing its grip on Democrats, writes Daniel Weintraub in the Sacramento Bee. With every newspaper in the state opposing the union-sponsored bill, Democratic legislators are reluctant to endorse it. 

"The CTA measure would give teachers unions the right to set standards, draft curriculum, choose textbooks and establish just about any other education policy in closed-door collective bargaining sessions with administrators." 

One member of a key Assembly committee, Carole Migden of San Francisco, said she might vote for the bill because it leaves school policy to the experts. "I don't think parents should be involved," Migden said. 

In Maryland, the teachers' union is trying the same thing , and succeeding. 

No Good, No More

When is failure success? When a Chicago charter school that's failing students is closed . Not studied, tinkered with or restaffed. Not given more money and time to fix its problems. Just closed. The charter model — perform or die — is working, says a Chicago Tribune editorial, which points out that 12 of 14 charter schools in Chicago are outperforming comparable neighborhood schools, some by large margins. 

You don't perform, you don't survive. 

"We don't have to step into a school to observe results, we look at outcomes," says (Chicago's charter schools czar, Greg) Richmond. 

No lawsuits, no protracted haggling with unions, no delays, no compromise. 

Regular public schools that fail ask for more time to get their acts together. They usually get it. Nuestra America Charter School asked for more time — but did not. 

Defining Math Down

Nearly half of California State University students — who allegedly graduate in the top third of the class — must take remedial math, reading or both. Trustees want to lower the number of remedial students. At Cal State Northridge, the strategy is to make it easier to pass out of remedial math, writes David Klein, a math professor, in an e-mail exchange.

The test now corresponds to 7th grade math skills, as defined by state standards. The provost has ordered remedial math teaching be taken from the math department and shifted to Chicana/o Studies, Pan African Studies and other departments. 

Klein argues that mathematics has nothing to do with skin color; males and females of all cultures learn the same math worldwide. If they learn math at all. 

"Mathematics is a worldwide "monoculture." If you look at the chalk boards and math books at universities in Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America, or anywhere else in the world, you will find the same mathematical symbols, and the same fundamental forms of mathematical reasoning."

Jim Castro, who teaches remedial math, writes about the consequences of low standards: 

"Based on personal observation and classroom performance, developmental math faculty have found that many students enter our university with mathematical proficiency below the fifth grade level. When we find students who are struggling, often they struggle because they do not know simple multiplication facts (the "times tables").

The majority do not have proficiency in simple calculations involving fractions and decimals. Thus, we begin by reteaching skills acquired as early as first grade, and for non-technical majors we teach nothing beyond Algebra 1 (generally an eighth grade subject) as described in the Mathematics Content Standards for California Public Schools."

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer.  Now she blogs for tips at ReadJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school.  She's never gotten a dime from Enron.