05/12/10 — Demand basics: First priority for reform really is expecting more from students in school

View Archive

Demand basics: First priority for reform really is expecting more from students in school

The news was not really all that unexpected: American college students are having to spend a lot of time relearning the basics when they head to college.

The concern is not just that American taxpayers have already paid for this education once -- and that it is costing a lot to provide it again.

The really scary fact about the information discussed by educators and government policymakers is that this nation is turning out students who are barely able to handle their first steps in college, let alone in a competitive workplace.

And that is something everyone needs to be concerned about.

There has been much talk of giving more students the opportunity to go to college -- more grants, more help, more emphasis on pursuing higher education.

What there ought to be is more talk of forcing more students to earn the right to go on to college.

A zeal to increase graduation rates and to get test scores that show progress at schools, combined with the theory that children from some backgrounds do not have the support they need to succeed in school and should have allowances made because of that, has created a new problem.

What needs to happen, right now, is for there to be higher standards, stiff penalties for not finishing and levels that must be achieved before a student can move on to the next grade, let alone earn a high school diploma.

And we achieve that standard not simply by shifting students who are succeeding around to failing high schools, elementary schools or middle schools. All that does is make a cosmetic change. It does nothing to increase achievement in the students who are struggling.

We should simply demand that the students at the schools where the test scores and graduation rates are lower meet certain standards.

The first step likely should be to make it illegal to drop out of school, period. You must complete a high school diploma -- or we can legally keep you in school until you do and can function at a basic skills level.

The next step is to come up with training programs that offer students whose bent is not academics the chance to find a career and to get the skills they need to survive as contributing members of society. We need to stop thinking of vocational education as giving up. A quality program will teach students with those talents basic skills they need and give them a career that could be very lucrative.

And yes, we need to get troubled children and those who refuse to even try to learn into programs that address their issues -- and away from students who are still trying and are not using their learning challenges as an excuse for disrupting classes.

Making sure children are prepared should also be the responsibility of the parents. If you don't make sure your child is in school and doing homework, then you could find yourself with a hefty fine.

America needs to wake up and stop the politically correct garbage that continues to create a standard of mediocrity in schools -- and in life.

Demand more of everyone -- no matter what race, socioeconomic status or area they live in. Offer incentives (college credit, scholarship money, etc.) to successful students who are willing to work with a peer to help him or her improve his or her grades. Reward teachers who go the extra mile.

Create an atmosphere of achievement -- and accountability -- and then check again in a few years to see how many Johnnys there still are out there who cannot read.

Published in Editorials on May 12, 2010 9:39 AM