Bridget Green was all set to be valedictorian of her New Orleans high school, but she didn't even go to the graduation ceremony. Despite her A in Algebra II, Green failed the math portion of the graduation exam, which measures 10th grade level skills. It was her fifth try.

Green's difficulties with the graduation exam were no fluke. Her ACT score of 11 was lower than 99 percent of students who took the college admissions test.

The Times-Picayune story is heart-breaking. Green was willing to learn, but her teachers didn't tell her that she needed to improve.

Studious, athletic and outgoing, teachers and peers said Green is an ideal student. In her three years at Fortier, she balanced a college-prep class schedule with competing on Fortier's basketball and track teams. Her transcript, which is full of A's and B's, shows she earned top marks in biology, geography, history, creative writing and Spanish.

They were giving her As for being a good kid. But they weren't teaching her.

To sharpen her math skills and improve her chances of passing the exam, Green asked school officials to let her skip a physical education class and take an additional math course during her senior year. But she said the school's counselor wouldn't let her make the switch.

...(Principal Harvey) Cyrus said Green's experience does not suggest the school is doing anything wrong.

"I feel my teachers did everything they could do," Cyrus said. "Sometimes students just don't ask for help."

And sometimes a student asks for help, and doesn't get it.

The principal blames the test. He has no worries about the students who got lower grades than Bridget Green, claiming, “most of our children are ready to go on to college."

Green plans to keep retaking the test till she passes. Then she'll enroll in community college. Based on her high school grades, she's confident she can succeed. She wants to major in elementary education.

When Only an Expert Will Do

If only blacks should teach black history and only women should teach women's studies, then who should teach criminology? Ex-cons, right?

Big Arm Woman imagines the faculty deciding who's the most qualifiedto teach Advanced Criminal Behavior.

In the same spirit, here's a New York middle school dean in charge of discipline who was convicted of possessing cocaine and marijuana. Now that he's been through rehab and the conviction is about to be expunged, he's entitled to get his job back, an arbitrator ruled.

Liberal Studies

New College of California-- only in San Francisco -- will offer degrees in "activism and social change".Tuition runs $5,500 to $6,000 a semester for one weekend of classes per month, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Instructors include tree-sitter Julia "Butterfly" Hill and "ecofeminist witch" and author Starhawk. There are no conservatives on the faculty, college officials conceded.

Students will study everything from anarchist theory to the civil rights movement. The master's program has a course on globalization, the hot topic in progressive circles.

"We want people to learn how they can be activist and not just someone who is angry and against the system," said Peter Gabel, president emeritus of New College, who plans to teach in the activist program. He is now director of the Institute for Spirituality and Politics.

For applicants a little light on the prerequisites -- a high school degree and at least 45 units of college credit -- New College will consider their "life experience." And no, school officials said, being arrested four times for blocking an intersection isn't what they mean. Admission officials want to see a portfolio of community work, not a rap sheet.

Call me cynical. I think they want to see that $6,000 check.

Disrupting a Mind Set

Steve Hinkle tried to post a flyer for an upcoming speech by a conservative black author at Cal Poly’s multicultural center. Black students were “offended.” One called campus police. After a seven-hour hearing, Hinkle was found guilty of disrupting a "campus event" -- an unscheduled, unannounced Bible study session that hadn't yet begun.

"He was ordered to write letters of apology to the offended students, risking penalties up to expulsion if he refused," reports Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The transcript of the hearing is revealing. Here's Hinkle questioning Student 6.

SH: And you said I asked you, “Why can’t we sit down and talk about it?”

S6: Yes.

SH: Okay. And you told me, “Take the flier elsewhere or I will call public safety”?

S6: Yes. I said, “Take that elsewhere or I will call public safety.” And then that’s when you tried to debate, even more debate, and I went and called public safety because I wasn’t, I wasn’t up for it. It was just, the timing was horrible.

Here's Cornel Morton, Cal Poly’s vice president of student affairs.

CM: Well, it’s clear that we have an identifiably young white male who has been self-identified as a member of the College Republicans group. And although the College Republican group, I’m certain, is not exclusively white or male, there are some implications. And on the other side of this we had a group of students of color, at least identifiably, largely students of color, and the mix, unfortunately, and the collision of experience, that is, the collision of your experience with theirs, on that day at that time was placed inside a larger context, as you recall. And namely these fliers that were posted and the concern that some had about the nature of the speaker’s message and all the rest . . . And then to learn later after some investigation that the College Republicans had sponsored the speaker. I think that chemistry, if you will, without question, had racial implications...

It sounds like a white Republican, by his very existence, is disruptive in the not-so-multi-cultural center. Apparently, Cal Poly officials think that black students have a right to be sheltered from contrary political beliefs or believers.

Actually, it's not harassment just because someone feels offended, says the Office of Civil Rights.

Letters

Al Frick writes:

As a computer consultant, I train new employees on the computer systems that I design. Since 1980, I have seen hundreds of high school and college graduates. Every year I encounter "dumber and dumber" trainees. Or maybe I should say "less educated," because the fault is not with the employees but the school systems that produce such poorly educated students and the parents who are not involved enough to know their kids can not read, write, add, or even think.

Both of my grandfathers were from Europe and barely spoke English. They insisted their children learn and use English. After college I lived overseas for several years, and no one thought it odd that we had to learn the local language if we expected to live and do any business in that country.

Stephen Scott of Waco, Texas, says:

Of course superintendents cannot pass teaching tests. They were once teachers who were promoted because of incompetence.

Chris Pendleton  of Alexandria, Va., says:

Any teacher who fails a basic English test is not bilingual and should be fired on the spot. Why would taxpayers want to subsidize "teaching" that is both incompetent and detrimental to students?

Vernon Henning of Hobs, N.M. writes:

When three quarters of the day in elementary school must be devoted to dealing with dysfunctional children, their parents, and meaningless administrative concerns, education is going to suffer. The "No Child Left Behind" act embraces too much of what is wrong in public education. It will fail. Worse, the children who have gone through the system under it will fail.

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 JoanneJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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