Rising Drop-out Rates, Costly Common Sense

High school standards are too low, the National Governors' Association says. The governors want "more rigorous standards and harder exams than states have already imposed, often with considerable difficulty," the New York Times reports.

Despite the zeal for academic standards and exit exams that has swept across states in recent years, a high school diploma does little to ensure that graduates are capable of handling the work awaiting them in college or in the workplace, the National Governors Association said in a report issued yesterday. Graduation requirements remain so universally inadequate that it is possible to earn a diploma anywhere in the nation and still lack the basic skills required by colleges and employers, the governors reported.

Indeed, more than 4 in 10 public high school students who manage to graduate are unprepared for either college courses or anything beyond an entry-level job, the governors reported, requiring billions of dollars in remedial training to endow them with the skills "they should have attained in high school."

The report calls for regular testing of high school students; No Child Left Behind doesn't require high school testing. States with graduation exams typically lower standards when it's clear that many students who've been passing their courses can't pass a test of 10th grade skills.

According to the Educational Testing Service, more are dropping out of high school at earlier ages. High school completion rates fell from 1990 to 2000, says the report, One-Third of a Nation: Rising Dropout Rates and Declining Opportunities.

More Money for What?

New York City apparently will have an extra $5.6 billion to spend on public schools, bringing the per pupil average to $15,320 in current dollars, thanks to a court decision. Jenny D, who’s working on her education doctorate, wonders if the money will be spent to improve teaching and learning or just for more of the same.

Read the comments, and this follow-up post, which quotes Robert F. Kennedy thinking about how to spend $1 billion to help poor children in 1965:

Kennedy: And then I come to this other point, that if you are placing or putting money into a school system which itself creates this problem, or helps to create it, or does nothing or very little to alleviate it, are we not just in fact wasting the money of the Federal Government and the taxpayer and investing money where it is really going to accomplish very little if any good?

For $15,320 per student, New York could lower class size to five, and have money left over for books.

Complain for a Cure to Mommy Madness

Help is on the way for upper-middle-class uber-moms, Iowahawk writes. (It’s satire.)

Alachua, Fla. - Victims of 'Mommy Madness,' the self-esteem crisis that has devastated women on both coasts and parts of Chicago, are finally getting much-needed help thanks to the spontaneous relief efforts of thousands of volunteers across the country.

"It's hard to look at the plight of these women and not want to chip in and 'git 'er done,'" says Tammi Jo Pearsall, 28.

Pearsall, herself a mother of four and part-time convenience store clerk in Alachua, is widely credited with creating the grassroots relief network that has generated over $4,600 in donations for Upper Westside supermoms desperately seeking meaningful time for self-actualization.

It all started when she read Newsweek's article "about how these mommas up there in New York and Boston were faced with all them false expectations and gender roles."

Common Sense for $500

CBS reports on parents who hired a team of "sleep specialists" to teach them how to get their five-month-old baby to sleep without three hours or more of lullabies, reading and bouncing on an exercise ball. The sleep consultants, who charge $500, told the exhausted parents not to keep picking up the baby when he whimpers. Let him cry for five minutes, go in and say "good night" with no touching, then let him cry for 10 minutes, go in and say "good night," etc.

I read that in a book when my daughter was a baby, back in 1981. Now someone's charging big bucks for the same advice?

First Impressions Are Misleading

In Scottsdale, Ariz., the school district receptionist is now "director of first impressions." Many employees have new esteem-inflating titles. The Arizona Republic reports:

Was the school bus late? Blame the "transporter of learners," formerly the bus driver.

Got a problem with your school principal? Take it up with the 10-word "executive director for elementary schools and excelling teaching and learning," formerly known as the assistant superintendent of elementary schools.

Superintendent John Baracy explains: "This is to make a statement about what we value in the district. We value learning."

Best of the Web responds: "Learning"? That's "facilitating the development of critical thinking skills" to you, bub!

When I was in high school, the guidance office became the "Pupil Personnel Services Center" and the library became the "Instructional Materials Center," known, redundantly, as "The IMC Center."


Jennifer Sylvester writes:

Thank you for the balance between the Newsweek article (suggesting it's all "society's fault") and the Time article about uber-moms. You're right: Kids are happy with cupcakes, watching SpongeBob in the afternoons, and getting hurt sliding backwards into a turtle sandbox off of the backyard swing set.

I know so many moms who overcompensate for whatever is missing in their lives by protecting their children from life's misadventures. I know a mom who has her son in therapy twice a week. She complains to other mothers daily about the teacher not spending enough one-on-one time with the students. She has had her son tested to try to get him into a special-needs class, and was disappointed -- DISAPPOINTED! -- that he scored so high he is near the top of his class. Her son is only five years old. If anyone needs a support group, it's the teachers who have to put up with this type of parenting.

Jeannine Stergios of Merrimack, N.H. writes:

I have two sets of children, one raised in the ‘70s and one being raised now. If you think the ‘70s and ‘80s kids are a problem due to overparenting, hang on to your hat for this next crop. They are the most pampered, overindulged bunch I have ever seen.

The parents ensure that every waking moment is taken up with some sort of activity. The children decide which car the family will buy, where they go on vacations, and even which neighborhood they will live in. They should let the kids have some free time to lie on their beds and dream, or lie in the grass looking up at the clouds. Stop giving out awards to every kid on the team. That’s my two cents as a slacker parent and proud of it.

A.K. Stone writes:

I got a letter once from a mom because her son's feelings were hurt in my writing class. This was a freshman college writing class. He needed to just suck it up and learn from his mistakes instead of crying to mom.

Ken DiStefano of Webster, N.Y. writes:

As a father of seven- and 11-year-old girls, I am lucky to have a sane wife and the girls are lucky to have a sane mother.

But when we go to school functions or other kids’ birthday parties -- holy cow. These people are nuts. I coached my daughter's seven- and eight-year-old soccer team last summer. You'd think kids were trying to earn college scholarships with the way some parents behaved.

"My kid is the best player on the team, and if you can't see that you shouldn't be coaching.”

I'll never volunteer to do that again.

Thanks for reinforcing the fact that WE are the normal ones; not them!

Judy Rada of Wayne, N.J. writes:

Keep reporting stuff like this and maybe kids will start being kids, learn responsibility and grow up to be adults who can cope with the real world without mother's help or psychiatric care.

Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at JoanneJacobs.com. She's writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

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