(July 29-30 in the Louisiana T-P/Advocate)  Former President George W. Bush was right, on the education front, to blast what he called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Now the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is doing worse than that: It wants to promote the false harmony of no expectations.

On July 20, BESE officially published a proposed rules change that would allow students to get high school diplomas even if they repeatedly fail the state’s graduation tests.

Those tests already feature absurdly low requirements for “passing.” Depending on which version of the tests are used, students can “pass,” and thus graduate, by answering as few as 10% of the questions correctly, and are never required to answer more than 38% correctly. The tests themselves don’t require advanced education: no more than “English II” or “Algebra I.”

Now, BESE essentially would abandon even those embarrassingly inadequate standards. Against the advice of the state’s own Department of Education, students who can’t even demonstrate knowledge labeled as “approaching basic” could get diplomas anyway. They could do so by demonstrating “employability” in one of several easily achievable ways and by creating a vaguely defined “portfolio of work” that approximates the “content proficiency requirement” (forgive the bureaucratese) that the graduation test supposedly measures. The portfolio’s value will be graded at least somewhat subjectively by a teacher.

This method of working around a massive testing failure is so ludicrously easy that it would make a mockery of the very idea of a diploma and, in effect, devalue the diplomas of every other Louisiana high school graduate….None of this helps students; it hurts them. It says they can repeatedly fail even the easiest assessment and still be rewarded with the universally recognized credential for basic knowledge appropriate for an American adult. Yet the credential would be a lie, because the “graduate” would actually be unequipped for all but menial work in the modern world…. [The full column is here.]



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