Can’t meet education standards, then lower them!

Rep. Mimi Stewart is a hard-line liberal and supporter of the education establishment (she’s also a retired educator). We disagree on a wide variety of issues, notably school finance (she views more education spending as inadequate) and school choice (I believe in a wide variety of choice options and she generally wants to restrict them). While we disagree, I have to admit that her proposal to lower New Mexico’s graduation standards is a real head scratcher.

To be fair, the bill would just lower standards. Rather, it sets up two graduation tracks for New Mexico schools. One of these would be based on current standards and one would have fewer graduation requirements. That doesn’t mean that lowering education standards is a good idea. In fact, you constantly hear complaints from employers around the state over the inability of graduates of New Mexico’s public schools to read effectively or do simple math. I don’t think a second track is what we need, rather we need a more effective education system.

On that note, I found this article from The Economist interesting. It details what nations that perform well on international tests do. A few choice paragraphs:

(The author) follows three American teenagers who spend a year as foreign-exchange students in Finland, Poland and South Korea. Their wide-eyed observations make for compelling reading. In each country, the Americans are startled by how hard their new peers work and how seriously they take their studies. Maths classes tend to be more sophisticated, with lessons that show the often fascinating ways that geometry, trigonometry and calculus work together in the real world. Students forego calculators, having learned how to manipulate numbers in their heads. Classrooms tend to be understated, free of the high-tech gadgetry of their schools back home. And teachers in every subject exhibit the authority of professionals held in high regard.

And check out this paragraph which to my mind offers a truly devastating critique of the left-liberal Mimi Stewart mindset:

In Helsinki Ms Ripley visits a school in a bleak part of town, where classrooms are full of refugee immigrants.“I don’t want to think about their backgrounds too much,” says their teacher, wary of letting sympathy cloud his judgment of his students’ work. “It’s your brain that counts”. She marvels at how refreshing this view is when compared with that of teachers in America, where academic mediocrity is often blamed on backgrounds and neighbourhoods. And she laments the “perverse sort of compassion” that prevents American teachers from failing bad students, not least because this sets these youths up to fail in a worse way later on.

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2 Replies to “Can’t meet education standards, then lower them!”

  1. My son just had two weeks off for Winter Break and VOILA! He now has a day off for President’s Day. Thanksgiving is now a week off–two days when I was a kid–Fall Break for the Balloon Fiesta and so on. My wife is from Mexico and she can’t believe how little the kids are in school compared to her country much less China or S. Korea. With all the days off the kids learn it’s the holidays that count and not the few days they’re actually in school.

  2. My own anecdotal observations:

    1. My children were in Catholic elementary schools for several years. Their classrooms had a large student:teacher ratio (40:1), no aides and the tuition was less than what a public school receives per child. When we switched to the local public school we found that the student:teacher ratio was “much better” (<25:1), there were teacher's aides in every classroom and my children were at least ONE YEAR AHEAD in academics over the public school. So much for that. (This was in Northern California)

    2. When my children were temporarily moved from Los Alamos High School to Cibola High School this past Fall, the main complaint was that there was no homework, less was expected of them and the general student population suffered from an unexplainable malaise toward learning. Where did that come from? My thought is that the home environment (where homework/learning may not be encouraged as an example) and a misplaced lowering of standards by teachers (who may not assign homework because it will not be completed among other things) has created this incredible malaise. When teachers found that my children came from Los Alamos School District they were immediately bumped to AP classes–classes that were not considered AP level in Los Alamos. These are both public schools in NM!

    3. This is a general observation from my high school children regarding those students at Los Alamos High School who come from other districts (Espanola, Santa Fe, etc) because their parents are LANL employees (there is an allowance for this in our district): The malaise toward education in this group of students is still there. You tell me what's going on…

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