The Sun Journal editorial of Aug. 25 supported abolishing the testing provisions of the No Child Left Behind law. It is unfortunate, but school officials are in agreement; they have yet to encounter a test they aren’t willing to avoid. They are like unsuccessful dieters who dislike weight scales because of what is revealed.
The problem is neither about tests nor scales, but about failure that both dieters and school officials would prefer to ignore.
It is difficult for ordinary citizens to recognize that our public schools are failing; our schools continue to give students passing grades, continue to promote them, eventually to graduate them. School failure would go undetected except for the testing required by NCLB, which, when used like a thermometer to gauge each school’s condition, reveals failing schools.
Fifty percent or more of local high school juniors failed to score proficient or higher on a recent SAT. Local employers acknowledge this failure when they test high school graduates to ensure they have ninth-grade skills.
At Central Maine Community College, nearly 40 percent of the high school graduates who enrolled in the fall of 2010 had to take remedial courses, courses that should have been taught and mastered in high school.
The educational system is like a manufacturing company where inspectors and creative engineers are no longer present. Defective products continue their unimpeded journey on the production line until falsely presented as complete.
Some educators, desperate to explain their failure, claim they are insufficiently funded. Yet, half the state and municipal budgets are spent on education in its various forms.
We fail because we are so embedded within our failure.
We are unable to make meaningful changes; the teachers’ union is obdurately resistant and local school boards are fearful of displeasing a powerful lobbyist.
When schools are reformed, we should be able to terminate an ineffective teacher; we should be able to grade teachers by the performance of their students. We should be able to reform a sick leave policy whereby teachers are allocated 15 sick days annually and can purchase an additional 20 days, by paying for a substitute teacher. But, we remain powerless, except for the ability to change the school boards.
The daily newspaper, whose unwritten responsibility includes acting as a community sentinel, should be aware of the failure of local public education, should be able to predict the continuing deleterious effect upon students and the community and, accordingly, should actively campaign to correct the failure.
Why, then, would the newspaper want to eliminate the testing that so definitively reveals the failure of public education?
Richard Sabine, Lewiston