'Tis Only My Opinion!

June 1999 - Volume 19, No. 6

The public school system has failed!

Graduation for most high school and college candidates occurs in late May and June of each year. This year the spotlight of the nation has been focused upon the public schools with the various acts of violence committed by students against their fellow students. The public and media coupled with the gun control advocates have demanded that our state and federal legislators ...




While it is tragic that these students have died or been injured, more students have died or been seriously injured from a variety of causes that have not brought forth the demands for gutting the Constitution of the U.S. in the quest for solutions. How many students have died or been seriously injured in 1998-99 from drug overdoses, drunk driving, falls, football and other sports. Suffice it to say, the number is much greater than that of shootings in schools.

The real tragedy is the loss of an entire generation of students without basic skills.

Public education is a failure. While test scores are reported as increasing, the fact is that the tests themselves have been downgraded. In the state of Nevada each senior is required to take a test similar to the TAAS test in the state of Texas in order to graduate. In 1999, Nevada's state education agency lowered the passing score on the mathematics exam from 61% to 57% to enable more students to pass. When I graduated from high school, you failed the course if you did not get at least 70. . . . not 61. . . not 57.

The Nevada Test problems

I took the test and found that the first question had an incorrect answer . . . the test makers did not know the difference between profit on sales and mark-up. There were two questions that had multiple answers although the answer sheet only gave one as being correct. One question could only be answered correctly if one assumed that a pie could be cut in 10 equal pieces but did not state that was the assumption. And one question had no correct answer because of a typo. Such is the state of our education system!

The Good Teachers are leaving the profession.

During the past three years in Texas, I have had the opportunity to interview many elementary and secondary teachers. Almost everyone complained about the concentration of their lesson plans in teaching students in order to pass the standardized tests. Many teachers wondered when their students would ever learn anything about the subjects being taught other than what is on the test. Many school districts use questionable methods to raise average test scores, e.g., encouraging students to be absent on test days, not testing alternative education students, and practice exams. If you can get a copy of any standardized test, please do so and take it yourself. You will be amazed at how easy these tests are! Pay is not the real issue among the good teachers . . . it is not being able to teach the subject matter, lack of discipline, and an administration that is only interested in meeting quotas.

The education profession through the National Education Association (NEA), the state teachers colleges and the accreditation process, government mandated standardized test scores and federal mandated programs coupled with a liberal judicial system has destroyed our public schools.

You can't blame it on anything else! They are responsible!

Let's begin with a basic truth.

The public school system as originally conceived was meant to educate children to become proficient in the three 'R's. Reading, writing, and arithmetic. For the first 160 years of this democratic republic, the literacy levels of this country continued to increase peaking in the 1920's, declining somewhat in the 1930's, increasing again in the 1940's and 1950's.

In the last half of the 20th century the education fraternity implemented programs designed to promote multi-culturalism, self-ego, and other liberal social changes. The failure of these programs can be seen by the decline of basic skills when compared with other countries. We are no longer in the top 10 of literacy, rather we have fallen about to the median.

Mandatory School Busing started the decline!

Beginning in 1954, school busing was forced on many school districts. The disappearance of neighborhood schools caused parents to become less involved in their schools and began the "white flight" migration to the suburbs and private schools. The inner city schools were left with a higher percentage of minorities attending public schools. In many cities, the next 20 years would see a major demographic change in the inner city itself. In cities like Dallas, the public school system would become almost 90% minority. By 1999, almost half of the students entering the sophomore year did not graduate in three years.

Accreditation is not important except to the uninformed!

Let me illustrate. Many years ago, the New York Society of Security Analysts began the "Certified Financial Analyst" program. Many of the young analysts were all gung-ho to become CFA's. However, one wise old member, Armand Erpf of Carl M. Loeb, Rhoades and Co., pointed out something very basic. He said, "Having a piece of paper on your wall does not mean that you are capable of making your clients any money!" Truer words were never spoken.

When the accreditation process for teachers creates a situation where college professors who are able to teach the teachers are deemed incompetent to teach in the public schools without taking the requisite hours of teacher training, something is rotten in Denmark.

Teacher accreditation also became a buzz word in the late 1950's.

Is it simply coincidence that the accreditation of public school teachers started to become an issue in the late 1950's? Or that beginning in the mid-1960's, teacher colleges began turning out a graduate who knew more about teaching methods than the subject matter which they taught? No longer was proficiency in the subject matter important, to the NEA the important issue was whether a new teacher had the requisite hours of teacher training courses!

In one state, a public school system had 90% of its teachers who were former college professors. Upon adoption of the new accreditation plan in 1960, the state education agency required these retired college professors to go back to school to become accredited or quit teaching. All but one said "forget it." Within three years, the graduates of this public school system were no longer getting scholarship offers whereas over half of the class in 1960 had received offers. If you think that the demographics of the area had changed, you are wrong. It was the same agricultural community. The new teachers could not motivate their students as well as the old college professors, did not challenge them beyond the box and were less likely to really know the subject matter which they were supposed to teach.

In fact, one graduate from 1968 was quoted as saying, "I went to Dr. Millbrook (the ex college professor who refused to get an education certificate) and had him tutor me. By the end of the semester, I knew calculus and our math teacher had problems with basic algebra."

Blame it on culture if you want . . . the so-called flower children but you are wrong! There may be some blame due to parents who don't take an interest in their children but much of that lack of interest can be attributed to a welfare program which removes men from homes in order to maximize welfare payments. The real culprit is the rush to accredit teachers who were not proficient in their subjects.

Lesson plans and teachers guides are no substitute for being knowledgeable about the subject matter one teaches.

Social Promotion . . . Making the child feel good!

Beginning in the 1960's, educators began worrying about the effect on a student's psyche if the student was not promoted along with their fellow class members. As a result, social promotion became a crutch and in many states, teachers were forbidden to fail a student for more than two years in grades one to eight. Never mind that the student was incapable of doing the work. Just pass him on and make sure that the foundation upon which learning is built is rotten. At least, the student will be with students of about the same age. Forget that you have just condemned the student to a mediocre life and possibly, a life of crime. Hey, that is someone else's problem. Students are not stupid. . . many are street-smart. They quickly learn that there is no punishment for failure to learn their lessons . . . at least, while in school. By the time, the majority of these students drop out and/or graduate (if they are athletes), it is also someone else's problem.

The College Board Tests

The SAT test which is administered by the College Board was initially started in 1941. Colleges have used the test scores of students for years to select those students who might do well at a particular college. It was designed to be a predictor of college success The test has been used to measure students performance for almost 60 years.

The following chart shows the average SAT test score for students taking the test from 1971 to 1998. The decline in average test score is attributed by many learned educators as being a function of the rising number of minorities taking the test. In 1996, the College Board revised the average test scores to "recenter" or reflect these changes in the demographic population.


Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States

As the chart shows, SAT scores steadily declined for almost two decades beginning in 1971. Actually, the average test scores were even higher in the 1950's and 1060's.

The SAT revisions were roundly criticized by many educators not aligned with either the College Board or the National Education Association.

New SAT scores provide misleading information

Education Reform News - Sept. 25, 1996

Thanks to what the College Board calls recentering, SAT scores are both higher and more confusing. Due to tinkering by the purveyors of the exam, last year’s
average score of 428 verbal and 482 math will this year result in scores of 504 and 506. The new recentering not only inflates these mediocre scores, it gives the
appearance students are doing equally well in reading and math. This hocus-pocus makes it impossible to compare historical scores with the new and improved
recentered figures. Furthermore, the new test is easier, calculators are permitted and students have longer to complete the exam.
And if that wasn’t enough, the College Board has made it possible to have a perfect score while missing four questions. Prior to this finagling, a perfect score meant
perfect - missing zero questions. It sounds like the College Board needs tutoring in each of its own subjects.

Copyright 1996, Children's Education Fund
P.O. Box 225748
Dallas, Texas 75222-5748

e-mail (Today@TodayFoundation.org)

The following chart clearly demonstrates that the recentering added about 100 points to the average SAT score. Prior to 1996, a perfect score was just that. No mistakes . . . Period. No longer.


Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States

The legacy of these years of failure is that our graduates are not able to compete in the world. Ask any employer if today's graduates are on a par with those of 20 years ago and the answer will be a loud NO. Ask any college course advisor how many incoming freshman students have to take remedial course work in basic math, English and science in order to perform freshman college work . . . The number will astound!

We have become almost a third class nation in terms of literacy despite our touted superiority with computers and high tech. A society is made up of many facets and the tie that binds a free society is literacy!

The following article appeared in the Investors Business Daily recently and succinctly states the case against the public school system.

The Dangers Of Illiterate Workers

Employers are at best hesitant to hire workers who can neither read nor write -- and with good reason. Not only does their illiteracy hamper their ability to
perform their tasks, they pose a danger to themselves and their fellow employees, labor experts point out.

An employee who can't understand written directions or add up a row of figures is a potential liability.

The First International Adult Literacy Survey revealed that 23.7 percent of American adults are at the lowest level of literacy ever -- lower than the level required to properly fill out a job application or write out a receipt.

It also found that some 20 percent to 25 percent of American workers in manufacturing, mining, construction and hospitality can't perform those tasks.

Seventy percent of those at the lowest level of literacy are either in the lowest 20 percent of the income distribution scale, or they have no income at all.

More than 44 percent of Americans at the lowest literacy level earn no income.

These realities are more or less ignored by advocates of minimum wage laws, observers note. In fact, they say, illiterate workers suffer most from
forced wage hikes. The mandated increases force illiterate workers right out of the job market.

Source: Thomas K. Dilworth (Employment Policies Institute), Investor's Business Daily, January 13, 1999.

The problem is not guns!

Depending upon which commentator you believe, the shooters at Littleton broke 17, 18, 19, or 20 laws. Most criminals break laws. The solutions advocated by our federal legislators would have not stopped any of the shootings during the past year. None! But the lawmakers did erode the protections afforded the populace under the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The problem is a public school system that has failed in its basic mission . . . to educate students!

There is an old saying . . . Who is watching the guards? In our case, who is watching the liberal NEA and holding them accountable for the failure of our public schools to teach students what they go to school to receive . . . an education that prepares them to compete in the world!

Until parents demand accountability, the public schools will continue to fail in their mission to educate students despite tinkering with test scores and other measurements of performance provided by the current inmates of the public school administration environment.

As many parents have moved students into private schools to get an education, provide their children with a moral upbringing according to their beliefs, the public schools should really question themselves, WHY? But in today's liberal judicial culture, it is highly doubtful that real change can and/or will be made in the public schools. The NEA and state education agencies will trumpet the news that scores are increasing . . . by forcing teachers to only teach to pass the test and then forgetting to tell anyone that they have made the tests even easier.

And the result will be a continuing decline in education excellence when measured against other countries. We will pay a high price for this lowering of our education standards in the 21st century because our citizens will not be able to compete.

But then - 'Tis Only My Opinion!

Fred Richards
June 1999

This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by Adrich Corporation in June 1999.

It is intended to provoke thinking, then dialogue among its readers. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.


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